By Sabina Mollot
An older resident was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a Peter Cooper Village apartment on Friday. The blaze, which the Fire Department got the call about at 5:13 p.m. took 29 minutes to get under control, with 20 units and 78 firefighters at the scene.
The resident, James Masterson, has been treated and released and is now fine, according to a woman who works for the couple as a caretaker. She wasn’t working at the apartment that day but said Masterson and his wife Bernadette were both home at the time the fire broke out.
“He inhaled smoke, but he’s fine now; they’re both fine,” she said.
The address where the fire broke out was on the fourth floor at 601 East 20th Street, which is on Avenue C.
The FDNY said that after the fire, four firefighters were taken to different local hospitals with minor injuries and one civilian was also taken to a hospital in serious but stable condition. The FDNY said it couldn’t confirm that it was Masterson or even the age of the patient.
The department spokesperson also said he did not know the cause of the fire, but it was not deemed suspicious and is currently under investigation.
The caretaker said she didn’t know how much damage was done to the apartment, because she hadn’t been there since the incident. She spoke over the phone from Masterson’s son’s apartment. He did not return Town & Village’s calls requesting comment.
Another resident of the building, Shari Fox, said she and family members who were visiting from out of town saw the fire as they were standing nearby at Stuyvesant Cove Park.
They’d been watching a seaplane land on the water and Fox heard several wailing sirens behind them but she paid them no mind.
“I’m used to hearing sirens,” she said.
But then she noticed that the emergency vehicles had stopped in front of her building and smoke was pouring out of a window. Fox then called her husband to alert him and he took their two kids downstairs.
“We’re on the sixth floor and they saw smoke coming up on the stairwell,” said Fox. “It was pretty bad so they took the elevator.”
Downstairs, a security officer was directing people out, but the building wasn’t evacuated. Once outside, Fox and her family watched as a fireman climbed up a ladder to the fourth floor, broke into a window, and then disappeared inside the apartment as water and debris splashed out of the other windows. However, no one got pulled out that way. The FDNY rep said the firefighters used a door to lead out the injured party.
Soni Fink, another 601 neighbor who lives on the seventh floor, was home when the fire broke out.
She’d called Public Safety after smelling smoke in her apartment hallway “and was told they already knew about it and engines were on their way.”
She was then instructed to stay in her apartment.
From her east window, she could see that traffic had been halted along Avenue C.
Fink added that the fire, which did not impact her apartment other than a strong odor of smoke, made her rethink the importance of having a go-bag at the door and about what should go in it.
Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital, referred questions about the fire to the FDNY, but noted there are no smoke detectors in ST/PCV building hallways. A fire safety plan, he said, is posted in every building.