WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Two firefighters were hospitalized fighting a 4-alarm blaze that left many families displaced from their Washington Heights apartment building Monday morning, the FDNY said.
The source of the fire was traced to a bodega on the ground level of a six-story building on 1274 St. Nicholas Ave., near West 174th Street, about 10:30 a.m., the FDNY said.
About 40 units and 160 firefighters responded as smoke quickly spread throughout the building.
“I heard people screaming and then it kept getting louder and louder,” said Babacar Tabane, 29, who was watching Boardwalk Empire when the fire started. "There was a lot of smoke it was difficult to breathe."
Two firefighters were taken to area hospitals, both sustained non-life threatening injuries. Two civilians were treated for minor injuries, the FDNY said.
The apartment building does not have a sprinkler system. It is not required by law, said the FNDY.
"My mother is in the hospital because of an asthma attack," said Yesenia Johnson, 23, who lives with her on the fifth floor. "She’s going to be ok.”
Johnson herself suffered an asthma attack when she reached the third floor — where the smoke was significantly heavier — on her way down. Her boyfriend helped carry her outside the building.
The American Red Cross was at the scene helping families affected by the fire.
While three units sustained fire damage, the FDNY had not determined how many more apartments had smoke and water damage. The number of people displaced is unknown.
"I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight,” said Dulce Escanlastico, 43, who lives behind the bodega. "Everything is inside all of my documents and photos.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Residents stood outside looking at firefighters stop the fire. Many of the buildings's windows had been smashed to help ventilate the building.
Tabane said she just felt grateful to be alive.
“I’m not worried about anything right now, I’m just happy no body died," she said. "Things can be replaced."