5 hurt in fire at apartment building in Harlem

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- It has been a painful and devastating start to the New Year for tenants at 480 Convent Avenue in Manhattan's Harlem section.

Workers cleared debris, sorted through rubble and packed up belongings after an early morning fire broke out inside a third floor apartment.

Five people suffered injuries, one of them serious. Brandon Cayitano's brother is recovering at Harlem Hospital.

"I was feeling a little sad," said Brandon. "They told me, 'Your brother is a little burned on his face, but he's going to be okay.'"

Ten hours after the flames broke out, firefighters were still on the scene inside Apartment 31.

While investigators have yet to determine the official cause, they do know it started in the apartment's living room.

Video from inside showed the charred remains of what appeared to be a Christmas tree that was standing in the corner.

"Maybe it was Christmas tree," said Brandon. "I told them about the Christmas tree. I see that the Christmas tree was dry, so maybe...."

Tenants told Eyewitness News they heard the smoke alarms on the third floor, but not on the fourth and fifth floors.

Chris Jones was still awake when police knocked on his door at about 1:20 a.m.

"I always have a fire bag ready," said Jones. "So all my important papers, my laptop, are already packed up from living in NYC. It's just experience. I grabbed it, grabbed the duffle bag I already had and ran right out the door with my dog."

Some of the fire victims told us they will stay with friends or relatives New Year's night.

Others have already sought assistance from the American Red Cross.

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