Massive Blaze Rips Through Apartment Building Near Yankee Stadium

By Alan Neuhauser and Trevor Kapp  on July 18, 2012 6:52am  | Updated on July 18, 2012 2:23pm

Flames lit the sky outside Yankee Stadium early Wednesday morning, July 18, 2012.
Flames lit the sky outside Yankee Stadium early Wednesday morning, July 18, 2012.
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FDNY

THE BRONX — More than 200 firefighters battled a massive fire two blocks from Yankee Stadium early Wednesday that injured 34 people and forced about 24 families from their homes, authorities said.

''It was like the world was coming to an end," resident Mary Paden, 69, said. "The smoke engulfed me as I was trying to get down the stairs. It was really, really bad.''

The six-alarm blaze started at 12:18 a.m. on the top floor of 975 Walton Ave., an H-shaped six-story apartment building about 700 feet from centerfield, the FDNY and city's Office of Emergency Management said.

"It appears to have started in the [attic] area on the top floor," said FDNY Deputy Chief Ron Werner.

Flames spread to the building's cockloft and roof, and 66 of the building's 180 apartments were affected by smoke or fire.

"My son — my little hero — saved my life," said Donnell McMillon 37, who lives on the sixth floor with his wife, 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. "He woke me up. I thought he was trying to play with me to get in my bed...He was like, 'I smell burning.'

"I got out of my bed and touched the floor, and the floor was hot. I opened the door and a fireman with an axe-pick asked me why I'm still here."

Thirty-three firefighters were taken to local hospitals for minor injuries, most due to heat-stress, an FDNY chief said. Three residents were examined at the scene by emergency workers, but declined further medical attention.

Werner said the fire, which raged in part because of the scorching temperatures, was brought under control about 5 a.m.

Paden helped her younger brother, a 60-year-old double-amputee who wears two prosthetics on his legs, escape the building. Paden, herself, uses a walker.

"It was the longest 15 minutes of my life," she said. "I just kept hollering, 'Bi-lateral amputee coming down.'

"I wasn't sure we was going to make it out. I had my shirt over my mouth the whole time. The help of God saved me. I couldn't have done it alone."

More than 200 firefighters battled a six-alarm fire in the Concourse section of the Bronx early Wednesday, July 18, 2012, the FDNY said.
More than 200 firefighters battled a six-alarm fire in the Concourse section of the Bronx early Wednesday, July 18, 2012, the FDNY said.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

The building has 66 open violations with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, according to city records. Three of those violations cite defective or obstructed fire exits.

More than 130 tenants from 30 apartments were taken to a Red Cross reception center at All Hallows High School for food, shelter and emotional support, a Red Cross spokesman said.

"I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going," said Ren Osborne, 38, who was forced to flee his first-floor apartment. "I might've lost everything."

The Department of Buildings issued a partial vacate order at 975 Walton Avenue, a spokeswoman said, and full vacate orders at the structures at 956 Gerard Avenue and 958 Gerard Avenue because a parapet that abuts the buildings collapsed.

The owner of the building, 975 Walton Avenue, LLC, was ordered to repair the paparet, the spokeswoman, Gloria Chin, added.

Werner added that firefighters were blocked from parts of the structure because of the damage.

"There [are] some areas upstairs that, due to the collapse of the structural supports of the top floor, we are unable to put firefighters in that area right now for their safety," he said.

Residents on the 164th Street side of the building are allowed back into the building, but tenants on the south side are temporarily on the outs because their apartments were damaged.

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