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Firefighters Struggle to Contain Huge New York City FireAired March 27, 2001 - 7:47 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to New York, to the Bronx, where a major fire has been underway. More than 200 firefighters are scrambling to try to contain that. It's now a seven-alarm fire. It started in a house and then spread to some of the other row houses there. There are people injured.
And joining us on the line right now is New York City's fire commissioner, Thomas Von Essen.
Mr. Von Essen, tell us what's happening there right now.
THOMAS VON ESSEN, NEW YORK CITY FIRE COMMISSIONER: Well, we pretty much have it under control. It went to a seven-alarm for us because we had so many people to chase from building to building. There's a row of about 18 frames. The fire was in about nine of them. The smoke is through, probably, about 15 of them. Heavy damage occurred to about seven or eight of them. We have about 250 firefighters from about 70 units trying to put it out. A lot of the buildings have collapsed from the back.
Fortunately, we were able to get everybody out. Nobody was seriously hurt. We have a couple of minor injuries to civilians, four minor injuries to the firefighters, and just horrible tragedy for all the folks that live here -- nice working families.
MCEDWARDS: So, you say it's pretty much under control. Does that mean not spreading anymore at this time?
VON ESSEN: Well, we think we've got it, yes. I don't think it's going to spread anymore.
MCEDWARDS: We're looking at a picture now that show just an incredible amount of smoke.
VON ESSEN: Yes, it's old wood-frame construction, and the most difficult construction for us, because there's a common ceiling that runs through the whole 18 buildings, and you just chase it from building to building to building. Finally, I think we've got it.
MCEDWARDS: Any idea of how this started?
VON ESSEN: Can't tell yet. The people who own the five buildings said there was fire in the kitchen, a heavy amount of fire. They all got out, fortunately. We think it started there. We'll probably never know.
MCEDWARDS: All right, only a couple of minor injuries you say. How difficult was it for firefighters to get people moved out quickly enough to have avoided any fatalities or serious injuries.
VON ESSEN: Really difficult because they're all small buildings, with narrow stairways, narrow scuttles to the roof, and electric wires in the front. They're all, you know, in bed, as it's early in the morning. So it's just really one of those difficult jobs. We're very, very fortunate nobody was tragically injured or even worse.
MCEDWARDS: Indeed, New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen -- thanks so much for that.
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