Toaster caused 7-alarm fire that injured 17 in Manhattan building

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Derick Waller reports from Washington Heights on how the Red Cross is helping the displaced residents. (Jonathan Jimenez)

17 people were hurt and 60 people displaced in a seven-alarm fire that was apparently caused by a toaster.

The flames broke out on the second floor of the six-story residential building at 775 Riverside Drive, near West 156th Street, in Washington Heights Monday afternoon. The fire reached the roof, sending plumes of dark smoke billowing into the sky.

The FDNY reports that all the victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and that no one was critically hurt. Nine of the injured were civilians and eight were first responders.

Here's a photo from Eyewitness News viewer Richie Nussbaum showing the fire scene from across the river:

Heavy smoke and flames could be seen at 775 Riverside Drive from across the Hudson River in New Jersey.



More than 200 firefighters worked to get the blaze under control.

According to investigators, the preliminary cause of the fire was accidental and it was electrical, caused by a toaster.

Officials say a tenant was making toast when the appliance suddenly burst into flames that quickly spread throughout the kitchen and up a dumbwaiter to the upper floors and the cockloft.

"It's an open shaft that runs through the building and once fire got into that shaft way it quickly traveled into the cockloft space," said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

A smoke alarm was present and operational.

"My mother, my sister and my niece live in this building. That was my first reaction, if they were safe," said Sean Polite, a tenant. He then rushed to his family's apartment building which by then was surrounded by firefighters.

Many residents though were unaware of the fire until they arrived home from work. "I turned the corner and I see people from the building, 'who called you?'. I said no one called me, I'm finding out right now, I'm like, Oh my God," said one resident.

A staging area has been set up for victims and their family members affected by the fire in Our Lady of Esperanza Church located at 624 West 156th Street.

"It's a very upsetting situation for people and we're helping them at the church aroudn the corner, and help them get an understanding of what's going on," said Jessica Kirk, a Red Cross Volunteer. At least seven of the displaced residents are children.

Authorities advised those nearby to close windows and avoid smoke. Drivers were told to expect delays in the area.

The Red Cross said it is uncertain when the displaced residents will be able to return home.

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