MIDTOWN — A midtown apartment building fire wrecked one apartment, killed a pet rabbit and temporarily stranded a woman on the fire escape, residents said.
The fire broke out hours after a smoking manhole left the building without power, residents and Con Edison officials at the scene said. It wasn't immediately clear whether the two incidents were related.
The blaze began on a mattress in a third-floor apartment at 327 West 30th St. around 3 p.m., fire officials said. No people were in the apartment at the time, and while no firefighters or residents were injured, a pet rabbit died in the blaze.
About 35 firefighters responded to the scene and managed to contain it within the apartment by 3:54 p.m., officials said.
A panicked resident climbed onto the fire escape clutching books in her hand, one eyewitness said. She made it down several flights before she froze right in front the apartment where the fire was burning, as emergency workers started knocking out windows.
A grainy cellphone video captured the encounter and onlookers said firefighters eventually coaxed the woman back up a flight of stairs where she exited the fire escape through a fourth floor apartment.
"I was so scared for that girl," said Tabitha Barnes, 44, who watched the whole encounter from across the street where she works as a home health aid. Barnes filmed the incident with her cell phone. "She got so nervous."
Barnes said firefighters heaved blackened bookshelves, bits of mattress and exercise equipment out from the third-floor windows.
The man who lived in the apartment where the fire started said he was too broken up to speak about his pet or the fire.
Deborah Alperin, 50, an office manager who's lived in the building for 40 years said she was at work when she received a text message from her neighbor about the manhole situation. Shortly afterward, she got another, cautioning her to stay calm.
"Don't panic but there's actually a fire," it read.
"I have animals," Alperin, who owns parrots and a cat, said. "I rushed home."
Rocky Lotito, 28, an unemployed salesman who has lived in the building for nine months, worried about his neighbors on the third floor.
"They lost everything," Lotito said. "Stuff's gonna be crazy here for the next few days."
Con Edison said power should be restored to the building within a few hours, though there was no power as of 7 p.m.