Five-alarm inferno guts East Williamsburg apartment building

Firefighters attempt to gain entry to the rear of a building after a wall collapse at the scene of a five-alarm fire at 244 Montrose Ave.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

A massive five-alarm fire tore through an East Williamsburg apartment Thursday evening, impacting four buildings. 

The Brooklyn blaze was first reported just after 6 pm on Jan. 14 in the second floor of 244 Montrose Ave., near Bushwick Avenue. Firefighters arrived at the scene of what was initially a three-alarm fire within two minutes, but the situation quickly grew out of control, becoming a five-alarm inferno over the course of an hour. 

Members of the FDNY could be observed ferociously battling the roaring fire as flames burst out of windows and jet-black smoke plumed into the night sky. At one point the smog grew so dense that it engulfed the entire building in an opaque fog.

Firefighters could also be seen scaling the roof of a neighboring building where they wrestled with the flames. According to FDNY sources, these joining wood-framed dwellings were also set alight.

It was also reported that the adjacent buildings were searched but collapsing walls prevented firefighters from conducting a thorough investigation of the fire’s source at that time. Additionally, first responders used saws to cut open metal shutters in order to gain access to the building’s rear.

Firefighters work to put out the blaze.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

NYC’s Emergency Management used social media to notify nearby residents to keep their distance and close all windows and doors to prevent risk of smoke inhalation. EMS also remained on the scene to deal with potential injuries.

Chief of Department John Sudnik and EMS Assistant Chief Jonathan Pistilli said Thursday night that just two firefighters sustained minor injures while engaging the inferno. 

Sudnik emphasized that the FDNY had a two-minute response time to the report, and upon their arrival, they found that the fire had advanced from the second floor well into the third and final floor, leading to the roof. 

“Firefighters conducted an aggressive interior attack, but it was too much fire. The fire was too advanced. It extended to the third floor, which is the top floor, and up through the roof. Eventually, the firefighters were removed from the fire building because of the advanced fire conditions,” Sudnik said.

By 8:30 pm, the fire had left a gaping wound in the building. Members of the FDNY remained onsite, hosing the structure’s blackened remains.

“There was a collapse of the rear wall of the fire building that happens when there is advance fire compromising the structural integrity of the building that’s why we removed the firefighters proactively in anticipation of a collapse of that nature,” Sudnik stated. 

Smoke filled the air at the scene.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Sudnik estimated that, although four buildings were affected by the fire, three of the buildings — containing 30 apartments — were inhabitable for the night. 

“These buildings were built in the early 1900s — they are all wood buildings, they are very conducive to rapid fire spread and that’s what happened here,” Sudnik said. “Sometimes in these buildings with that much fire it just gets ahead of us too quickly.”

Over 200 EMS and FDNY officials responded to the blaze and were expected to remain on scene over the course of the night and long into Friday. 

No civilian injuries or rescues were reported. All four buildings were evacuated.

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.