With the memory of 3 fire fighter's funerals fresh in their minds, NYC's
Bravest were called upon yet again to battle a 4 alarm hi-rise fire in the
posh Upper West Side of Manhattan. This time, 4 civilians bore the brunt of
the Red Devil's fury.

Shortly before 1000 hours, Wednesday December 23, 1998, the Manhattan C.O.
received a call from the panic stricken resident of apartment 19-D at 124 West
60 Street. The caller, Patricia Brentrup - mother of actor Macaulay Culkin,
stated an electric heater caught fire and spread to the couch. She and the
family maid awoke the sleeping children and fled the apartment. Sadly, the
apartment door was left propped open.

In a virtual repeat of the fire that killed 3 fire fighters 5 days prior, the
hallway and stairwell were converted into a 2000-degree smokestack. Within
minutes fire was showing through the 19th floor apartment's windows; clouds of
black smoke billowed up along the buildings 51-story facade. Unlike the fire
on Vandalia Avenue (77-33-4080 12/18/98), this building was not required to
have sprinklers in the hallways, only a firehose and standpipe in the

Many residents on the upper floors were lucky in their attempt to leave the
building. They took the stairway early enough to avoid being disabled by smoke
and heat. But for 4 others the timing just wasn't right. Between the 27th and
29th floor, 4 people died of smoke inhalation.

Some residents didn't make it out of their apartments in time and they were
forced to stay inside. As heat and smoke increased they fled to their terraces
in the frigid air. This was the best course of action.

In NYC all buildings over 75 feet in height must be "fireproof." The term is
misleading. It does not refer to the contents of the building, only the
structure itself. In optimum conditions a fire will not spread beyond an
apartment or compartment provided of course that the doors are closed. That
was not the case in this, or the Vandalia Avenue fire.

"Stay in your apartment." "Close the door," was the only advice we could give
the callers. Some did. But there's no telling how one will react in a life-
threatening situation.

Frank Raffa
Supv. Dispatcher, FDNY