Teens amazingly climb down pole from 4th floor to safety in tragic East Village fire

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two teens amazingly survived a two-alarm fire in the East Village by climbing out of their building from the 4th floor and sliding down an exterior pole.

The fire broke out on the fourth floor of the NYCHA-run Riis Houses on Avenue D at around 7:15 a.m. on Thursday.

Citizen App video captured flames shooting out of the windows of the building.

Residents said there was a large explosion before the fire and smoke.

"The intensity of this fire was such that it blew the windows out and blew a wall out in bedroom where these teenagers were sleeping," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.



A 32-year-old man was discovered dead in the apartment by firefighters. Fire officials say he was trapped in a rear room.

A 46-year-old woman was taken to the Cornell burn unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in critical condition.

An 18-year-old woman could be seen climbing out of the window first before helping the 13-year-old boy do the same.

Video showed them shimmying down a pole and scaling the side of the building to save their own lives as neighbors watched in horror.



"They were about to jump out the window but everyone kept telling them to hold on, so when they held on, they got onto the side of the pole and they started sliding down...and those kids, they made it down," neighbor Tashaka Owens said.

The two were treated for smoke inhalation and burns, but survived. Four others suffered minor injuries.

Multiple electric bicycles were found in the fire apartment, and fire marshals determined a lithium-ion battery sparked the fire.

Nigro said they're seeing an alarming trend.

"Last year we had 44 fires and no deaths, this year we have had 93 fires, more than 70 injuries and now four deaths caused by lithium-ion battery fires," Nigro said.

Daphne Williams is the incoming president of the Riis Houses and is pushing for the return of inspections that were paused during the coronavirus pandemic.

"To make sure bikes like that to make sure they're not in there illegally. People are losing their lives," Williams said.

Second vice president, Sharon Stergis, echoed Williams call.

"I think NYCHA has to be accountable too. When she mentioned about inspections, even if you don't come through apartments you can come through the buildings," Stergis said.

The FDNY released the following tips to follow when using devices powered by lithium-ion batteries:

- Purchase and use devices that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory.

- Follow the manufacturer's instructions for charging and storage.

- Do not charge a device under your pillow, on your bed, or a couch.

- Always use the manufacturer's cord and power adapter made specifically for the device

- Keep batteries/devices at room temperature. Do not place in direct sunlight.

- Store batteries away from anything flammable.

- If a battery overheats or you notice an odor, change in shape/color, leaking, or odd noises from a device discontinue use immediately.


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