Eighty Flee Fire at Posh Hotel

A kitchen fire sent smoke billowing through a trendy Midtown hotel yesterday, forcing some 80 guests into the street. The blaze, in the basement kitchen of The Royalton on West 44th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, started when a cook attempted to prepare a meal faster by increasing the heat, causing a pressure compressor to overheat and burst, said a waiter.

"There was a huge rumbling and we didn't know what it was, we were so scared," said restaurant hostess Jennifer Rias, 20. "We all smelled the smoke at the same moment, and the reception staff started the evacuation process."

Becky Van Osdol, a guest from Indiana, said, "We were in Times Square when we smelled something burning. It was scary when we got here and realized it was coming from our hotel."

There were no injuries, and the fire was under control within an hour.

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