Friday, March 23, 2012

Fire Tears Through Inwood Home, Injuring 12 Firefighters

INWOOD — A fire tore through a West 217th Street home early Friday, nearly trapping a family inside and leaving a dozen firefighters with minor injuries, authorities and witnesses said.

The blaze at the two-story private home, at 531 W. 217th St., began about 2:51 a.m. and quickly spread to both floors, the FDNY said. Flames also shot up from a manhole that caught fire in front of the home, fire officials added.

Twelve firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and were taken to St. Luke's Hospital, officials said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The blaze left 90 Con Edison customers without power in the area, as crews near the scene Friday morning were busy working to restore service. 

One of the home's longtime residents described hearing an explosion after smelling smoke inside the house.

Bernard Crystal, 74, who has lived at the address since 1977, said his daughter heard a "terrible rumbling" on the ground-floor before dashing upstairs to warn her family. 

"We tried to go out the front, but the living room was full of smoke, so we ran out the back way," he said. "Just as we got out of the house, the explosion occurred. The living room burst into flames. We were seconds away from being burned alive."

A woman living on the semi-detached property's other side, which did not suffer as much damage, said her husband was awake when he noticed the flames.

"He saw the light was flickering and the floor was rumbling," said Yvette Rivera, 52, who moved there with her husband from the East Village about 10 months ago.

"He saw the streetlight flickering and smelled smoke. We ran out and saw the flames shooting up from the manhole. We're lucky we didn't lose someone."

Others described hearing a loud noise emanate from the manhole in front of the home.

"It was like a motorcycle starting up," said neighbor Robin Schwartz, 57. "There were flames shooting from the manhole cover. The fire was many colors, purple and green. I'd never seen anything like it."

A Con Ed spokeswoman could not say whether the manhole fire was connected to the house fire, noting that the cause of both is under investigation. 

By: DNAinfo

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