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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Update on Yesterday's Fire in Highbridge

Twenty-three residents and five firefighters were injured Wednesday morning in a fire at 1030 Woodycrest Ave in Highbridge. The builiding is next door to the house where 10 Malian immigrants lost their lives to a fire in March of 2007.

There were no fatalities in Wednesday's blaze. The one-alarm fire burned for 52 minutes and destroyed the first-floor apartment of Celestino Narvaez, and also spread to higher floors. Most or all of the glass was knocked out of hallway windows on all six floors of the building; the windows remained in this condition as of Thursday afternoon.

The home of third-floor resident Esther Gonzalez-Alers--who is asthmatic and suffers from a heart condition--still smelled of smoke. Gonzalez-Alers, 57, shivered as she spoke to this reporter, because the glass of her apartment had not yet been replaced.

Narvaez, who lost all his possessions, said the electricity in his apartment was out when he woke up at 5am Wednesday to take a shower, forcing him to light a small candle. At some point, Narvaez fell asleep, and the sound of his dog barking frantically jolted him awake and alerted him to the fire. Narvaez said he was unsure how the flame from the candle had spread . "Who knows?" Narvaez said. "It could have been the wind. It could have been something [else]. I don't know, because I did not see it."

Chris Villaroel, a spokesperson for the city fire department, said Wednesday that 2 of the injured civilians were being treated for serious injuries; the rest of the victims sustained minor injuries. The five injured firefighters were treated for minor injuries at Jacobi hospital. Villaroel said that the 23 civilians were treated at various area hospitals; because of the high number of hospitalizations, he was not sure which facility each resident was being treated at.

Cecilia Webley, a spokesperson for Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center, said that her facility had treated and released three children and two adults, none of whom had been in serious condition.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the West Bronx Blog was unable to verify--through in-person conversations with residents of 1030 Woodycrest and calls to several local hospitals--if anyone remained hospitalized from the fire.

For third-floor resident Carmen Saez, yesterday morning's events brought back horrible memories of the infamous fire that claimed the lives of nine children and one adult from the Soumare and Magassa families a little more than one year ago."All I knew was they was screaming, 'Smoke!'" Saez said. "Flashbacks started coming back." Saez said that she attempted to escape through her front door, but was greeted with black smoke so thick she was unable to see. She then locked herself in her bedroom before firefighters broke down her door.

The West Bronx Blog will continue to provide updates on this story as we get more information.


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