A man is dead after he was unable to escape a fire that started in his room Sunday night.
Twelve fire units and sixty firemen rushed to 343 Jefferson Avenue at the corner of Tompkins Avenue at around 9:10 p.m., after a fire erupted on the building’s top floor.
Smoke consumed nearly every floor of the four-story rooming house, sending tenants, who were unclear of the fire's origin, running frantically out into the street.
One of the building’s tenants, William Denard, 56, said he saw the victim briefly and tried to save him, but he said the fire overwhelmed him and forced him to flee.
“The smoke alarm went off, and at first I thought it was some food burning, so I ran downstairs to the kitchen,” said Denard. “But there was nothing on the stove. So I ran back upstairs, and that’s when I noticed the fire coming out the bottom of the man’s door.
“All I heard was ‘help me, help me.’ So I kicked open the door and I saw him laying on the floor burning. I reached in to try to help him, and the fire just went ‘poof!’ and came up real big, so I ran down the stairs and out the building,” Denard said, shaking his head.
Firefighters arrived on the scene, and rushed the victim to Woodhull Hospital. He was later pronounced dead. One other firefighter was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
The fire was placed under control at 9:54 p.m.. The cause of the fire is still undetermined, according to fire officials, and the investigation is ongoing. However, several of the building’s tenants and one neighbor suggested the fire may have started from a lit cigarette.
“He smoked a lot and was on a lot of medication for a spine problem, and it was hard for him to get around,” said Denard. “At first I couldn’t get the door open, because of all the books he had laying around the floor next to the door."
“I kept telling him about the clutter in his room,” said another one of the building's tenants.
“Everything is gone, my TV, my couch, everything,” Denard said.
Vincent Hurt, a neighbor who lives on the fourth floor of the building adjacent to 343 Jefferson was upset about the damage to his walls caused by the fire but was relieved no one in his apartment was hurt.
“As soon as I realized there was a fire, I just rushed my son out of there,” said Hurt. “By the time I was able to get back up to my apartment, my bedroom and living room had holes in the walls. It’s a tough situation. But I’m just glad no one [in my building] was hurt.”