NEW YORK CITY — A column of smoke billowed from a Williamsburg apartment building as fire raged just below the roof Thursday morning, according to the FDNY.
The inferno erupted about 4:40 a.m. in the cockloft — a space between a top floor's ceiling and roof — of 188 South 3rd St., a fire spokeswoman said.
Top-floor tenant Charlin Ramos, 18, awoke to the smell of smoke and raced to the roof to see what was happening.
"It all flooded with smoke, so I called 911 and started banging on everyone's door," Ramos said. "The flames were pretty high. They were bright orange."
Ramos said panicked residents bolted for the exits.
"It was scary. People were shocked. Everybody was running. Nobody wanted to be trapped," he added.
The blaze roared for hours and was elevated to third-alarm status about 5:30 a.m., the spokeswoman added.
The approximately 140 firefighters who responded to the blaze finally brought it under control at 6:34 a.m., she added.
"The firefighters did an amazing job. I called and heard the sirens right away," Ramos said.
One firefighter was removed from the scene on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on his face and hospitalized for heat-related injuries, witnesses and an official on scene said.
"His facial expression wasn't good. He was gasping for air," Ramos said.
The inferno may have been caused by an electrical problem, officials on the scene said, but fire marshals were still determining an exact cause.
At least three apartments were gutted in the blaze and many more had water damage, according to fire and Red Cross officials.
The Red Cross said it was still trying to determine how many tenants needed temporary housing.