70 displaced, 30 hurt in raging Hempstead fire

June 18, 2012 2:55:37 PM PDT
Nearly 70 people are homeless after a raging five-alarm fire tore through an apartment building on Long Island Sunday.

The flames were so intense that they could be seen shooting out of the windows of the seven-floor building on Fulton Avenue in Hempstead.

A malfunctioning stove may be to blame for fire, which started about 6:20 p.m. in the kitchen of a second floor unit. The flames quickly spread upward.

"It comes out a window, the second floor goes to the third floor, then it went to the fourth floor," said George Sandas, of the Hempstead Fire Department. "So at one time, we had four floors of actual fire."

It was a scare for residents, who at first unsure how to escape.

"I was gonna jump," resident Kalima Colbert said. "I was telling the people down low, you all better be ready to catch these babies."

Firefighters went door to door and used ladders to save those trapped in their apartments by the smoke and flames.

"They telling us to stay on the balcony cause the house started filling up with black smoke," Colbert said. "It was so scary."

By 8 p.m., the fire was under control.

Some residents and firefighters ended their Father's Day being wheeled away on stretchers, as 30 people, including two firefighters, were taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. None of the injuries were believed to be life threatening.

The displaced residents, many of whom spent the night at a shelter at Hempstead High School, were allowed back in the building Monday to collect whatever belongings were salvageable and assess the damage.

CLICK HERE to see images from the scene ---
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