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Fire Traps Residents On Roof Of West Side Apartment Building

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Residents were trapped on a roof others were stuck inside, and nearly two dozen were injured when a four-alarm fire broke out at a high-rise apartment building on Manhattan's West Side, the FDNY said.

The fire started around 4:55 p.m. Thursday at 515 West 59th Street near the intersection with 10th Avenue.

Chief of Department James Leonard said there was a heavy fire on the third floor which incinerated a one bedroom apartment. The blaze was contained to that apartment, but created a nightmare for hundreds of residents, TV 10/55's Tracee Carrasco reported.

"There were two windows on fire, and I think around 5 is when I saw that and then around 5:15 the winds started pickup up and it really built up the fire," Rosann Dunn said.

Dunn was making a delivery and was inside an elevator when it filled with smoke.

"I made it down to the first floor and it was crazy. Everybody was panicking, everyone was screaming hoping that their family was okay," she said.

Firefighters arrived within minutes, but by then heavy smoke had filled the entire 33 story building -- making it difficult to breath for the residents still inside.

"We had heavy winds blowing into the apartment which greatly affected our operations. The smoke got out into the hallway and up into all floors throughout the entire building," Leonard said.

As Leonard explained, it was a wind driven fire.

"It was a wind driven fire, heavy winds. There were four large windows in that apartment, all four windows let go and the firefighters had a tough time getting down that hallway because of the wind," he said.

Leonard said the fire left 21 people injured -- 17 were civilians with two in critical and four in serious condition. A 7-year-old who was in cardiac arrest on the 21st floor was safe and alert thanks to civilians who performed CPR before firefighters arrived.

"A 7-year-old female found upon the 21st floor in cardiac arrest. That female has since been revived and is in as good condition as you can expect after being in cardiac arrest," Leonard said.

Many of those hurt were brought out on stretchers -- some with towels covering their faces -- and taken across the street to Mount Sinai West Hospital.

Some residents and concerned relatives sent frantic tweets as they waited for word that help was on the way. Leonard said that nine people became trapped on the roof, they were in no danger and were safely removed. Sheltering in place and heading to the roof are both protocol for fireproof buildings.

"We recommend that you stay in your apartment, put any kind of towels to keep that, that smoke from coming in your door, make sure you're on the phone with 911 and our fire dispatchers, and if you can open the windows or whatever it's best," Leonard said.

A search of the building found a number of people sheltered in place. Firefighters were going door-to-door conducting a final search late Thursday night.

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