By Luke Hammill
Special to DNAinfo.com New York
MELROSE — Residents of a South Bronx building were still reeling from the three-alarm fire that broke out Saturday morning and left at least 32 people injured, five of them critically, and continued to search for answers in the wake of the calamity.
FDNY officials said a child playing with a lighter is most likely what sparked the blaze, a spokesman said Sunday, but could not verify if the child was one of those in critical. The fire broke out in an apartment on the fifth floor of the 27-story building, at 7:39 a.m. Saturday, and was brought under control at 9:45 a.m.
Residents nonetheless speculated Sunday about what started the fire which injured five firefighters, some suggesting it could be old wiring, and were still complaining Sunday of black soot in their apartments.
“My wall is black,” said Lucille Hawley, who lives in the 27-story building at 225 East 149th Street, near Park Avenue. Hawley said she spent over two hours after the fire across the street at Lincoln Hospital, where she coughed up what she called “black stuff.”
Cleanup crews and firefighters walked in and out of the building as residents pleaded with them to clean hallways and living spaces. The fire started on the fifth floor, and smoke billowed throughout the fireproof building.
The FDNY did not have information on the condition of the victims who were still hospitalized, and several residents on Sunday wondered about the identities of the five critical patients who were receiving treatment inside hyperbaric chambers at Jacobi Hospital.
Delores Carter, who lives by herself on the 22nd floor, said the smoke was so thick in her hallways and apartment that she was forced to retreat to her room. She has asthma and was having trouble breathing.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Carter said. “I was crying. It was horrifying.”
Carter added that she feared for her life until firefighters came to rescue her and brought her downstairs.
She said she has recovered, but her apartment has not — thick black soot covers her kitchen, appliances, sofa, lamps, windows and just about everything else, she said.