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At Least 23 Hurt In 7-Alarm Fire In The Bronx

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearly two dozen residents and one firefighter were hurt in an early morning seven-alarm fire in the Bronx.

The fire is believed to have started around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in a furniture store inside a four-story building on the corner of East Tremont Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. It was brought under control just before 2 p.m.

"They were immediately faced with heavy fire on the first floor," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "That fire was traveling upwards throughout the building."

The store is on the ground floor with apartments above.

Residents woke up to thick smoke and flames filling the building.

"I literally slid down the fire escape with my baby," resident Erica Ortiz told CBS2's Reena Roy. "I just felt very scared, very scared. I didn't know whether we was gonna slip when we came out the apartment. The fire department throwing water at the same time as we're coming down."

"I opened the door and nothing but black smoke," resident Allison Douglas said. "I told everybody in the building, 'Run, run, run. Get out! It's a fire.'"

Douglas said she awoke to the smoke alarms going off.

"I didn't wanna die" she said. "I have a lot to live for." 

Another resident escaped the burning building with his three young children.

"The smoke was so heavy. Luckily we reached all the way to the bottom. We couldn't see anything on the stairs," the man told 1010 WINS Glenn Schuck. "I came downstairs barefoot, no shirt, nothing. Not even shoes, just my babies. Somebody just lent me his shoes and a sweatshirt."

Ortiz said a window guard blocked her from using the fire escape.

"Couldn't kick it off, anything. It was bolted in," she said. 

More than 200 firefighters responders to the scene and first responders had to rescue several trapped residents.

"After I got my mom out and most of the people out, I got trapped so they had to put me up on the roof and get a cherry picker to bring me out," said resident Johnny Cabrera.

The bitter cold also made fighting the fire difficult. Icicles could be seen forming on the power lines and fire escapes.

The FDNY said 22 residents suffered non-life threatening injuries. One firefighter was also hurt.

Meanwhile, residents who were forced out in the cold were staying warm on a city bus, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

Fire officials said the building sustained significant damage.

"There's a lot of water damage because we've been pumping a lot of water into this building for several hours," said FDNY Assistant Chief Roger Sakowich. "We were a little concerned about possible collapse. We do see that some of the second floor did collapse down onto the first floor, so there's quite a bit of damage."

The Red Cross said it is helping a dozen families that were displaced.

"It's horrible. It's not a good way to start the year," Ortiz said. "I have a 5-year-old asking me right now are we homeless."

The fire broke out just days after a deadly blaze killed 12 people in the Bronx. Officials say it was sparked by a 3-year-old boy playing with a stove. His mother then ran out, leaving the apartment door open, which caused the flames to spread quickly.

Tenants told Roy they used that as a learning lesson, making sure to shut their doors.

"With all the fires going on in the Bronx later, we were all alert to it," said Cabrera.

The cause of Tuesday's fire is under investigation.

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