(Richmond Hill, Queens - WABC, March 1, 2005) -- Three people were trapped inside a burning building when firefighters responded to the emergency call in Richmond Hill, Queens. When they arrived flames were shooting from the Hour Children home on 118th Street.
Eyewitness News reporter Sarah Wallace has the story.
This burned out home was designed to give women a fresh start, women who really needed it - mothers who were recently released from prison. Now the dozen or so residents who live here will have to start all over, but thanks to some courageous firefighters at least everyone tonight is safe.
It happened early this morning in the Richmond Hill section of the borough.
They were intense, heart-wrenching moments for a dozen mothers who were trapped inside the burning building. The fire broke out at about 8:30 this morning on the doorsteps of Hour Children Inc. in Queens - a shelter for homeless mothers and their children - mothers who were recently released from prison.
Ragwis Singh, Witness: "When I heard somebody was crying from the side, but we cannot do nothing because I don't have a ladder, but I saw them cry - so many people crying - from this side out of the window also."
Of the 15 people inside the shelter, three were injured - two women and an infant child. One woman, who was trapped in her third floor room, had grabbed her child and fled to an outside ledge. Firefighter Thomas Irving crawled to them.
Thomas Irving, Ladder Company 126, FDNY: "I was above her. I was able to reach down and grab the baby. I was just happy to get the baby out of there. I was afraid they were both going to slip off the roof."
Other firefighters from Ladder Company 126 and Ladder Company 127 rescued both the mother with an aerial and portable ladder. They were rushed to Jamaica Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Five other victims were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital, and four firefighters were treated at Jamaica Hospital with minor injuries.
Chief Greg Rup, FDNY: "We had a mother and an infant on the ledge on the side of the building, and another lady on the other side of the building out the window. Our fire company's out portable ladders up then they rescued the victims."
On the other side of the residence firefighters were rescuing another trapped woman.
William Johnson, Ladder Company 126, FDNY: "She wasn't talking too much. She seemed like she was scared - very scared - and we had to coax her out but once she got going there was no problem getting her down the ladder."
Watching the rescues and the burning building was one clearly distraught man. We would later find out he was the caretaker here. The fire apparently started from burning candles in his first-floor apartment.
This afternoon the residents who had so little before and now have nothing - said a final prayer with staff members in the burned out chapel.
Hour Children has four other residences in Queens and for now the women will be moved into one of those. The sisters vow that they will rebuild here, hopefully with some prayers, determination and donations.