An arson fire Friday at a high-rise apartment complex for the elderly killed three people out of reach of fire ladders, and safety violations at the building hampered rescue efforts, authorities said.
Residents of the 15-story Midtown Towers were evacuated in sub-zero temperatures after the early morning blaze broke out on the first floor and pumped smoke into upper floors.Authorities said 77 residents and two firefighters were hospitalized, most for treatment of smoke inhalation. Six residents were listed in critical condition and 19 were in guarded condition Friday afternoon. Twenty-six residents were listed as stable.
"A lot of people were hanging out the upstairs windows screaming," said Bruce Wright of Guilfoyle Ambulance Service Inc.
As the acrid smoke filled the building, notes for help fluttered from windows to rescuers below.
"It was terrible, terrible," said wheelchair-bound resident Edna Gardner.
State fire investigators called the fire "probable arson," Police Chief Michael Hennegan said. If this preliminary determination stands, the deaths will be investigated as homicides, he said.
A door at the base of the building's stairwell jammed, trapping some residents until it was pried open. Most of the dead and injured were found in stairwells, said Fire Chief Joseph Gravelle.