Fire at Morningside Heights Citibank Smolders Over 12 Hours

By Jess Wisloski and Rosa Goldensohn  on January 11, 2014 10:04am  | Updated on January 12, 2014 9:19pm

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Three firefighters were injured and nearly 200 continued to work on a dangerous blaze that first took over a bank on Broadway early Saturday morning.

The smoke plumes grew over the course of the day from a fire that broke out at 5:20 a.m. from a Citibank at West 111th Street, but still the FDNY struggled to keep the flames down, a spokesman said.

"We're still working on it, trying to put it to rest," said a spokesman at 9:40 a.m., speaking from the site. More than 12 hours later, the burn had fizzled into a smoldering state, but still could not be fully put down.

By nightfall, the FDNY had moved all operations to the outside of the building, fearing collapse, NY1 reported.

Henry Cutter, 53, an editor for The Wall Street Journal, stood in the median with his two children, both in pajamas. "We woke up at about 6:30 a.m. smelling smoke and we jumped out of bed. We saw the smoke pouring out of the upper level. And then it just got worse," said Cutter.

Cutter's son Louie, 14, said he was concerned about damage to Samad's Gourmet, the deli next door to the bank. "It's a small business. I'm really worried they won't be able to regroup," he said.

By 12 p.m., he said the agency had scaled back resources, but that firefighters were still seeing flames and steadily battling the six-alarm blaze, a designation that marks it as a most severe kind of fire.

The fire appeared to be in the walls of the Citibank, as well as the duct work, making it difficult to extinguish, the spokesman added.

Four civilians were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation over the course of the morning, and three firefighters were transported to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital suffering injuries related to the fire.

The bank was a standalone structure,  but the apartment building next to it had been evacuated amid the smoky conditions, the spokesman said.

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