Seven firefighters, one police officer and one civilian were hurt in a massive, wind-swept blaze at a century-old apartment building in upper Manhattan Friday afternoon.
Most of the roof of the six-story building at West 144th Street and Broadway in Hamilton Heights also collapsed in the fire, which sent fireballs of debris raining down on the street and a thick wall of black smoke shooting into the skyline shortly after it broke out on the top floor around 3:15 p.m.
More than 200 firefighters were called to the 39-apartment building, which was occupied when the fire broke out. They searched the floors to make sure everyone was out -- even rescuing at least one dog -- and that there were no reports of missing tenants. Officials initially said the building was unoccupied and under renovation.
Firefighters were still putting water on hot spots into Friday night, and authorities said there was a chance the 100-year-old apartment building could collapse because of heavy fire and water damage throughout the structure.
Authorities said that the blaze was fed by chilly gusts pulsing through the tri-state Friday evening; initially authorities were worried the flames could jump to other buildings in the area, but those fears have been averted.
It's not clear what caused the blaze. There was a sidewalk shed outside the building as a precaution while crews made repairs to a damaged facade, but it wasn't clear Friday if construction had begun or if it played any role in the massive blaze.
Elizabeth Mercado told News 4 that she and her 5-year-old son sprinted out of the building after hearing fellow tenants screaming "fire."
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "It's incredible."
Traffic cameras in the area showed smoke pouring from the building, and social media users reported seeing the plume from dozens of blocks away. By 4 p.m., the smoke had transitioned from black to a light gray as ladder trucks laid gallons of water on the flames.
The same traffic camera showed debris enveloped in flames falling down to to the street below as the facade and roof of the building crumbled under the intensity of the blaze.
Hundreds of residents have been displaced, at least temporarily, by the fire. The Red Cross said it was helping those affected. It's unclear if anyone who lived in the building will ever be able to re-enter the building.
"Everybody who lives in that building is going to be without a home for Christmas, that's what I'm thinking," said Mercado.
Another tenant, Sophia Boswell, said she was just happy to get her family out safe.
"The children were terrified, but we're blessed to get out and right now, our concern is about the tenants inside," she said.
Motorists and pedestrians are advised to avoid the area. Residents who live in the area should stay inside and close their windows.