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1 dead, 17 injured in Harlem apartment building fire

Firefighters make 3 rope rescues while battling deadly Harlem fire
Firefighters make 3 rope rescues while battling deadly Harlem fire 03:11

NEW YORK - One person died and 17 others were injured -- four critically -- in a fire in Harlem on Friday. 

The fire broke out at around 2:15 p.m. at six-story apartment building at St. Nicholas Place near 149th Street.

Fire officials say when firefighters entered the building, they found flames blowing out of a third-floor apartment into the hallway, blocking off a stairwell.

"Normally, we go directly up to the floor above the fire, but we were even unable to get past those flames, so we needed the engine company to come in and extinguish some of the fire, and they ran up there immediately and were able to find some unconscious victims and remove them as quickly as possible," one FDNY official said.

Mayor Eric Adams, FDNY officials provide update on deadly Harlem fire 12:52

Firefighters were able to make their way to the upper floors, where there was a heavy smoke condition.

Fire officials say numerous people on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors were waiting for rescue on fire escapes, and some people were hanging out windows on the fifth floor. One person jumped.

"We couldn't even go out of our front door and there were people out there. I was trying to call them. Eventually I broke down some locked doors and I got to the fire escape. We had to get past that," one person said. "People were in the hallway in the smoke saying 'Help me.' I was trying to grab them."

"You don't want your neighbors to be hurt, you know, so it's like, you try not to cry because you're hoping they gonna be OK, but you don't know," resident Valerie Burnett said.

Three people were found unconscious in hallways on the upper floors.

Dramatic NYPD video shows the moment firefighters performed what firefighters call a life-saving rope evolution.

"Our members attach themselves to a rope and then another member goes onto the rope and goes off the side of the building goes down to the window and grabs the person that is trapped by the fire," FDNY Chief John Hodgens said.

The technique, using life-saving rope, is one the FDNY says is necessary maybe once or twice a year. On Friday, three people had to be rescued this way.

 One of the firefighters who performed a rope rescue is a probationary firefighter who has been on the job for less than a year.

"This is an evolution we do every week at the firehouse, and it was just like we trained," Probationary Firefighter Jason Lopez said. "This is the same drill that we work on every Monday with the truck and every Tuesday with the engine. It all starts back to the FDNY Academy at the Rock. All the training with the rope."

A total of 18 people were rescued.

"EMS units on scene treated a total of 18 patients. Twelve were transported to area hospitals. Five of those 12 were critical patients. One succumbed to their injuries at the hospital," an FDNY official said.

Firefighters were able to reunite one family with their dog.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Department of Buildings says due to significant fire damage -- including charred beams, damaged walls and windows, and holes in the roof -- a full vacate order has been issued and the landlords have been instructed to seal up the building. Crews will be back on the scene Saturday morning.

The Red Cross says they are assisting 40 adults, nine children and nine pets who have been displaced by the fire.

Any affected residents who were not able to stop by the Red Cross reception center should call 877-RED CROSS (877-733-2767).

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