One Woman Dead; Others Left Homeless in Harlem Fire

View Photos from the Scene

The cold weather made fighting a fire in Harlem especially challenging. The fire left one person dead and a number of families homeless.

When fire and ice come together, the elements compound the risk already inherent to firefighting. That's what happened at Adam-Clayton Blvd. at 111th Street. Firefighters say it could have been much worse because there are a number of children living in the building. They say it is lucky that the fire did not take out the entire block.

Flowing water met frigid temperatures to form icicles at the door of what used to be the first floor apartment.

Angel Sanchez, Resident: "The fire...comin' out of the window...heavy...too much..so we had to run out of there."

Running barely dressed into the cold, so freezing...firefighters had to fight not only flames, but a dangerous mix of elements.

Assistant Deputy Chief Patrick McNally, F.D.N.Y.: "It's very slippery conditions...you have extra clothing on."

It only took minutes for the early morning fire to tear through the building, sending residents scrambling to get out through the heavy smoke, one did not make it.

Assistant Deputy Chief Patrick McNally, F.D.N.Y.: "We conducted a search...where we found one victim."

Alberta Blackwell, 76, died but her husband got out alive. Their first floor apartment is where fire marshals believe the fire started. It's been gutted.

Andrea Hafley, American Red Cross: "As of now, there's only one gentleman...who needs to be housed and we've offered him housing."

Six families who've been displaced went to stay with relatives, grateful they got out alive.

Tyece Dyake, Resident: "I heard somebody screaming and my little girl said, 'Mommy, they're saying fire.' I get up and I can smell the smoke."

Valerie Lynch, Resident: "I heard someone stumbling down the hallway...and then he yelled, 'Fire, fire'...and that's when I got up."

Residents gathered what little they could salvage -- they can't come back until the heat and electricity are restored and apartments are safe to occupy.

Investigators are also looking into the possibility that one or two of the apartments may have been occupied by squatters. But they said that they don't believe the squatters started the fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

In total nine people had to be hospitalized, including two firefighters who has minor injures.

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