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Large Fire Tears Through Building In Harlem

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fire ripped through a Harlem apartment building Tuesday morning, injuring several people.

The building at West 139th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard broke out in flames at around 9:15 a.m.

The building is mixed-use, with a commercial space on the ground floor and residential units above.

Investigators said merchandise in a 99-cent store fueled the flames and the fire quickly grew to three alarms, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

The fire created smoky chaos by blocking one of the fire escapes.

"Unfortunately it was directly beneath the fire escape," said resident Na'im Najib. "I opened the window for the fire escape, but it was coming right up from there, so we had to go through the hallways and out, which was very scary because you couldn't see anything."

Large Fire Tears Through Building In Harlem

A construction worker was across the street and ran into the building to try to help residents.

"We went inside and you could not see anything," he told 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon.

Cellphone video shot by construction worker William Zumba:

The deputy fire chief told CBS2 it is unclear what sparked the fire inside the store, which was closed when it started.

"When they first got here there was a heavy fire condition in the store. Fire was coming out above the top of the rolled up gates," said Deputy Fire Chief Joe Woznica. "There was a heavy smoke condition throughout the building, as well as coming out of the store itself, and then people were on the fire escapes self-evacuating from the various apartments."

Eleven people, including seven firefighters, were hurt, Rincon reported.

Firefighters rescued three people who were taken to the hospital in ambulances, Carlin reported. Their injuries were described as minor.

In a picture posted on Twitter, the FDNY said a firefighter also rescued a kitten from the building.

The kitten, named Lucky, was reunited with its owner shortly after, Carlin reported.

"I thought the cat didn't survive. I was crying, then a fireman brought the cat out," said Otis Vincent.

More than a dozen people have been displaced and are getting help from the American Red Cross.

"I got in, I got a couple of things, but the house is really damaged. It's really bad," said Sophia Houston.

Houston said more than a dozen others will spend Thanksgiving in hotel rooms provided by the Red Cross.

Even though homes are ruined and living arrangements uncertain some of the fire survivors see much to be thankful for.

"Everyone is safe so my holiday plans is that I'm alive, I'm happy," Najib said.

The fire also heavily damaged an accountant's office and an art gallery.

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