Cigarette Sparks Huge New York Fire

(New York - WABC, May 24, 2007) - Firefighters battled huge flames and thick smoke billowing from the roof of a 12 story building in Midtown Manhattan Thursday night.

NewsCopter 7 was over the scene at 515 West 33rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.

Eyewitness News reporter Jim Dolan has the story from Midtown.

Two firefighters were hurt as the thick, choking smoke blanketed most of Midtown. Hundreds of people were inconvienenced, all because someone threw out a lit cigarette that turned into this.

Even from the ground you could see the ravenous, consuming flames. From the air, you could see it sweep across the roof, devouring the deck -- not in pieces but nearly at once. It was a wooden employee lounge that was a fancy perk of a fancy company one minute, and cinders the next.

Thick smoke blackened the clear spring sky and could be seen for miles. The fire department got calls from New Jersey and Brooklyn.

There were no people at risk, but one concern was the water tank that caught on fire. If it burst, the water would flood the roof top where two dozen firefighters were battling the blaze. And outside, that high up, battling the blaze wasn't easy.

"We got water up there you know ... especially the roof tank doesn't provide that much pressure ... we had to be able to hook up with the stair pipe and be able to supply water to the top floor," a FDNY official said.

The building houses a factory and warehouse for Coach -- a company that makes expensive wallets and bags.

The fire marshal says someone threw out that cigarette in the garbage can, it smoldered there for a couple of hours before finally catching on fire. But by then, the employees had gone off the roof top.

Republished with permission from WABC-TV