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Oxygen Tank Fuels Fire in Harlem Apartment

By Jeff Mays | September 12, 2011 12:55pm
A destroyed TV in the fire damaged apartment.
A destroyed TV in the fire damaged apartment.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — A fire in a Harlem high-rise destroyed an apartment Monday morning, FDNY officials said.

Neighbors reported hearing an explosion inside the 11th floor apartment in the Manhattanville Houses at 1470 Amsterdam Avenue shortly after the blaze was discovered about 8 a.m.

Joseph Clark, 38, who lives next door to the apartment where the fire started said he was summoned to inspect the place early Monday morning by a 14-year-old girl who lives in the apartment and who told him she was concerned because she smelled smoke.

By the time Clark and the girl walked back to the apartment and opened the front door, the place had been consumed in flames, he said.

"I went there and saw the fire was out of control," Clark said. "We closed the door and then heard a loud boom," he said. The pair quickly evacuated the building, he said.

Tenant George Lans, 34, who lives in the apartment where the fire started with his wife and three children, said the firefighters at the scene blamed the blaze on a faulty electrical outlet. He said they've had problems with an outlet in the apartment before.

"It was a faulty outlet. We've had many problems here with the electrical and the plumbing," said Lans, whose apartment is part of the NYC Housing Authority's Manhattanville Houses public housing complex.

The FDNY did not cite a cause of fire.

Lans, who was at work when the fire started, said his teenage daughter was about to leave for school when the fire began. He suspects the boom was caused by an oxygen tank he kept in the apartment after being prescribed to use it to treat headaches.

No one else was in the apartment at the time of the fire, he said.

"I'm happy no one was hurt," he said. "I'm sad we lost material things, but those can be replaced."

An FDNY spokesman said the fire was brought under control quickly. Nobody was hurt, and the building did not need to be evacuated, the FDNY said.