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Upper West Side Bar Staff Hailed As Heroes During Fire In Apartments Upstairs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Three bartenders on the Upper West Side not only know your name – they have your back too.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, they were the heroes this week when a fire broke in apartments above a bar.

Thick black smoke and orange flames shot to the sky Friday night from the building at 511 Amsterdam Ave., between 84th and 85th streets. Below the apartments lies e's BAR.

"I turned to Brady I believe it was, or Eddie, and said, 'Do you smell something burning -- something electrical? It smells like an electrical fire to me," said bartender Ralph Green.

Green and two other employees – barback Eddie Velasco and manager Brady Byrnes – grabbed fire extinguishers and ran upstairs.

"We didn't really know the situation until we got into the building, and as we were going up, we were just pounding on doors yelling, 'Call 911!'" Green said.

"Most of them were surprised, 'Yes, what do you need?' (We said), 'Oh, we've got a fire building,'" said Velasco said. "Oh yes, they are totally in shock."

The men said they know a lot of tenants upstairs, since quite a few come into the bar.

"I really didn't realize how many people I knew until I was running through the building and I was recognizing faces," Green said. "That made it even more important."

Tenant Molly Gervis came back to her apartment on Monday to try to salvage what she could.

"I walked up to the window and I saw flames shooting down from the apartment below me," Gervis said.

She grabbed a few things and ran out once she saw the fire, but is not surprised to hear about what Green, Byrnes and Velasco did to alert other residents who were unaware of the growing flames.

"I've gotten to know a few of them so it doesn't surprise me that they would want to help," Green said.

One person who was surprised was Velasco's wife.

"After, I went home, my wife said, 'What you did?' I don't know. There was a reaction," Velasco said. "That was crazy."

The owners are not sure when exactly the bar will be able to reopen, but they are hoping it is soon. Their first order of business when they do reopen is to host a fundraiser for their friends upstairs.

"We're all just a big family and we're all just making sure everybody was safe," Green said.

And they said they would do it again if they had to.

The FDNY said one civilian suffered non-life-threatening injuries, in the blaze along with six firefighters. The American Red Cross Greater New York stepped in to help 19 displaced families.

The fire was started by an extension cord.

The apartments are not in a newer fireproof building – it is older – so evacuating people was considered the right thing to do as opposed to staying put in a building that is fireproof.

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