Towering S.I. inferno

4-alarm fire in apt. bldg. injures nine


A soaring four-alarm fire early yesterday sent people scrambling to safety from their seven-story apartment building in Grasmere, Staten Island, officials said.
Around 5:51 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 600 Hylan Blvd. In all, 170 firefighters from 41 units needed more than two hours to bring the blaze under control.

Five firefighters and four civilians were hurt in the fire, which shot flames from the fourth floor to the roof. None of the injuries were life-threatening, officials said.

A civilian worker for the FDNY living on the floor where the fire broke out didn't know about the blaze until her twin sister called to say she had seen the building burning on TV.

Sanya Beard, 33, quickly roused her husband, 13-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter and led them from the building's 70-unit B-wing after her sister's phone call.

"We got up, saw the smoke coming through the door. Immediately, I grabbed my daughter and went down the fire escape," said Beard, who works in the Fire Department's counseling office. "I'm just glad we got out safe."

Beard, who hasn't been able to survey the damage in her apartment, said she heard no alarms and was saved only by the call from her sister, who lives in St. George.

Salvatore Cassano, chief of operations, said firefighters initially thought the flames started on the top floor but found that they actually originated from a pipe recess in the bathroom of a vacant apartment on the fourth floor.

"It quickly extended to the upper floors. It went to the roof," Cassano said. "The firefighters cut a trench to keep it from extending to any other part of the building."

Fire marshals are still investigating the fire's origin, Cassano said.

In the end, despite the towering flames and intense smoke, much of the building was spared by the fire.

"It looked a lot worse than it was," said Neal Gorman, spokesman for the Red Cross, which initially sent 14 workers to the site.

Still, three apartments ravaged by the fire were rendered uninhabitable. The Red Cross is providing the three families with food and clothing.

Originally published on November 5, 2003