A fire ripped through three floors of an apartment building situated on top of Jacob’s Pickles restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue Friday night. The fire led to two building-wide evacuations, leaving residents and employees from the restaurant below standing on the sidewalk between 84th and 85th streets to watch as forces from the fire and police department navigated the scene.
A couple walked hurriedly past the police line, dodging water puddles along the way, while carrying two small dog crates, one purple and one pink. Behind them a steady flow of people with frightened faces were being shuffled in an orderly fashion away from the charred building that had caught fire at around 6 p.m. on an unusually warm night.
Tears were streaming down the face of 18-year old Paul Plaza, who stared at the building shaking his head.
“I work at the bodega on 77th and Amsterdam so I wasn’t in the building when the fire happened. My cousin lives in the building too and he was the one to run and get me from work to take me here since my mom was in our apartment when the fire started,” Plaza said.
A handful of residents who were in the building at the time of the fire could be seen wearing masks over their noses and mouths. A large crowd of people from neighboring buildings also stood around in shock as well.
“This reminds me of 9/11 because of all the smoke and sirens,” whispered one woman who watched the evacuation from her apartment building across the street.
Over 150 firemen from numerous stations were called to the scene in addition to 200 police officers from the New York City Police Department. The streets were blocked off by at least a dozen firetrucks, EMT vans and patrol cars.
“We don’t know how the fire started yet, the fire marshals will investigate once it is safe to reenter the building, but we have determined that the third, fourth and fifth floors were on fire,” said Mike Cacciola, a fireman for the New York Fire Department.
Raisa Saha, 11, watched the chaos from her dad’s bodega, New Green Leaf Deli, which is across the street from the apartment building, with her father and younger sister.
“We were eating dinner in the Chinese restaurant next door and we smelled smoke and saw the black fog everywhere, and then we saw the fire,” said Saha.
A busboy from Jacob’s Pickles said the most difficult part of the ordeal was evacuating the restaurant-goers when the smell of smoke became too strong to bear.
“We started smelling the smoke and we tried to keep everybody calm,” he said. “Then there was water all over and that’s when the managers told us to get out. All of a sudden the firemen were everywhere and getting us out.”
FDNY did not report any serious injuries or deaths.