FDNY investigates doors, sprinklers after shelter fire

April 15, 2011 2:22:31 PM PDT
Investigators are looking into whether exits were blocked and sprinklers were not properly working as residents fled a fire at a homeless shelter on the Upper West Side Friday morning.

The flames broke out at the Volunteers of America Regent Family Residence for the homeless at 104th Street and Broadway around 6 a.m.

Two dozen people were injured, one seriously.

The FDNY did a walkthrough of the building after the fire was put out, and they say that despite some residents' claims, all the doors were unlocked and working. But they do admit that many of the doors are extremely heavy and require force to open, especially under the circumstances.

Those who live in the shelter, however, disagreed.

"We were just stuck in here to die," one resident said.

Angry, exhausted and still scared, dozens of homeless families huddled outside of the shelter, telling horror about the smokey two-alarm fire.

"All the emergency exits was locked," one man said. "The fire department had to break the door with a axe. That's ridiculous. Where was security? Any other time when they doing their fake fire drill, they're banging the doors down."

There were also allegations that security personnel ran away, that exit doors were locked and that none of the sprinklers inside were functioning. One family was found huddling in a bathroom tub.

"The fire alarms didn't go off," one resident said. "We had to call the fire department and tell them we're trapped upstairs with a newborn. We're in the bathroom."

"None of the stuff worked," another added.

Again, fire officials say all the doors were working. They have not released any information about the sprinklers.

A second-alarm fire spewed heavy smoke through an Upper West Side shelter for homeless families, injuring at least two dozen people.

The Regent Family Residence provides temporary housing to 140 homeless families.