NEW YORK — Fire burned three townhouses on Staten Island early Thursday, injuring 34 people including two young children who were dropped from a second-floor window into the arms of neighbors below, authorities and witnesses said.
About 200 firefighters responded to the blaze, which erupted at about 1 a.m. A spokesman for the Fire Department of New York said 23 firefighters and 11 civilians suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious but none were considered life-threatening. He said the number was expected to climb slightly.
The spokesman said the flames were so intense that firefighters were unable to say where the fire originated. That would be part of the investigation into what caused the blaze, he said.
"My life is in there," said Cindy Piscopo, who lived on the first floor of one of the four-family townhouses.
She said she was awakened by a top-floor neighbor knocking on her door, yelling at her to get out.
"I saw fire upstairs and flames shooting out of the side of the building" and an adjacent townhouse, she said. "The top floors are gone from both buildings."
The fire spread to the third building about two hours later, Piscopo said. She escaped safely with her 12-year-old daughter. Firefighters later found her cat behind the building, soaked from overnight rain.
A neighbor, Anthony DiSimone, said he and his fiancee, Darleen Cerzosie, helped two young children to safety after seeing a screaming man dangling his young son from a second-floor window thick with smoke.
"The father was stuck up there … he couldn't do anything — black smoke was just billowing out that window," DiSimone told the Staten Island Advance. "So I went underneath — he threw him right to me and I caught his son."
The man also dropped his young daughter to Cerzosie, DiSimone said. The children, believed to be 5 and 3, were treated by emergency officials and seemed to be okay but shaken up, he said. Firefighters were eventually able to get to their father as well, he added.