By Michelle Deal Winfield
Residents were forced to flee their apartments when a fire broke out at a five-story building on Friday morning.
The blaze began at 238 East 24th Street at around 3:45 a.m. on the fourth and fifth floors, and soon smoke filled the air for blocks.
As firefighters fought to control the blaze, one resident was in front of the building in tears, wondering how she could salvage her clothing and valuables. The building’s owner was at the scene comforting residents concerned about their belongings. A couple visiting a relative said the woman’s cousin and his fiancée lived there but were vacationing in New Hampshire during the holidays.
One of the firefighters at the scene commented, “We were lucky here. Most of the residents were away on vacation. No one was hurt.”
After firefighters vented the roof; the fire was located and shortly before 5 a.m., it was extinguished. A spokesperson for the FDNY said the cause was still under investigation. Over 100 firefighters had responded to the fire.
Two storefronts at the building suffered water damage, Limon Restaurant and Charlie’s Laundromat, and were later boarded up. The owner of the laundry was in the process of delivering previously cleaned clothing and household goods.
An engineer from the Department of Buildings who was at the scene after the fire said he was there to assess structural damage. In the meantime, though, he said the building would be vacated and sealed. A notice to vacate was then posted out front.
Representatives from the American Red Cross of Greater New York were also there to provide referrals to residents for short-term assistance. Five adults have since been relocated while others self-relocated.
By 2 p.m. on Friday, five families and a neighbor from next door at 240 were allowed into the building to retrieve valuables, carrying bags or duffle bags from the building as a police officer stood guard.
The following day, Saturday, workers sealed the windows on the fourth and fifth floors.
The smoky smell has lingered, though, seeping into apartments blocks away. On Monday, neighbors next door at 240 said the smoke was making their own homes inhabitable.
There median age of tenants at 238 is 30 and there are 18 apartments at the building, which was built in 1950.