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Two People Jump From Windows During Suspicious 147th Street Fire

By Jeff Mays | November 16, 2011 4:24am | Updated on November 16, 2011 3:50pm

By Jeff Mays, Tom Liddy and Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — A man and a woman were seriously injured in a suspicious Harlem fire early Wednesday morning after leaping from windows to escape, fire officials said.

A man in his 50s leapt from a second-floor window and a woman in her 20s jumped out of a third-floor window during the pre-dawn blaze at 465 W. 147th St., near Amsterdam Avenue, according to an FDNY spokesman.

The fire broke out just before 4 a.m., and was under control within the hour, according to the FDNY.

Both were taken to Harlem Hospital and are expected to survive.

Three firefighters also suffered minor injuries and were hospitalized, an FDNY spokesman said.

An FDNY chief at the scene determined the fire was suspicious and called in fire marshals to investigate, officials said.

More than 25 units and 106 firefighters were battling the blaze, officials said.

Witness Veronica Clarke, who lives across the street from the fire building, said she was awoken to the sound of glass shattering and people screaming. She ran outside and saw chaos.

"It was like a towering inferno," Clarke said, "I saw a woman jump from the window, her body hit the ground."

She said the woman hit the front stoop, which was also on fire, then began to crawl up the hill, when police rushed to her and began administering medical attention.

"The woman had no choice but to jump," she said, adding that tongues of fire spewed out 15-20 feet around the building.

"You only see stuff like this in the movies or on TV," she added.

A next door neighbor said the building was currently in process of foreclosure by Bank of America and that tenants have been left without maintenance for months.

Steven Rinehart, who lives next door, said he awoke to the sound of a man jumping out of a window from the fire building and landing in the back yard. He said he ran outside and into the backyard to help the man, and saw "huge flames coming out of his window."

He said he saw another man scale the outside of the building, climb onto a ledge that connected it to the neighboring building, and make it to the other side.

Clarke said the man, who declined an interview, was grateful to be alive.

"He said: 'I don't know how I was able to climb across without falling,'" Clarke said. "I told him that God was with you."

There was another fire at the building in October, neighbors said.

According to the Department of Buildings, the department received a complaint on Oct. 14 that stated that because of a fire, there were charred wires in the building that required inspection.

The DOB site said an inspector was unable to gain access on Nov. 13 to inspect the wires. A DOB spokeswoman said Wednesday that she was looking into the matter.

The Department of Buildings issued a temporary stop work order on the site Wednesday, and were looking into complaints including one from the FDNY stating that the sprinkler system was not working at the time of the latest fire, according to the DOB website.

The DOB also planned to look into the structural stability of the building once the fire marshals had completed their work, a DOB spokeswoman said.