At 11 a.m. Sunday morning, a three-alarm fire broke out at a 42-story high-rise apartment building on West 43rd Street and 10th Avenue. WABC reports that over 133 firefighters were called to contain the blaze, which began on the twentieth floor "and then spread to two upper floors." Among those trapped above the fire were 26th floor resident Mickey Atwal, his wife, and his two-year-old daughter. He had the presence of mind — or extreme commitment to social media — to document some of the scary experience on Twitter.
Stuck on building on 26 floor. Building on fire. pic.twitter.com/c5bDvWke0x— Mickey Atwal (@MickeyAtwal) January 5, 2014
Still stuck. Too much smoke on hallways. Elevators not working. Standing in balcony with wife and 2yr old.— Mickey Atwal (@MickeyAtwal) January 5, 2014
Firemen here in our hallway. Telling us to stay put. Looks like fire started a few floors below. Family safe and in good spirits— Mickey Atwal (@MickeyAtwal) January 5, 2014
The situation looked even worse from the outside:
The New York Post reports that the fire was contained in a single apartment. (The people who live there were out at the time and don't know how it started.) Two people were critically injured when they tried to escape and got trapped in smoke-filled stairwells. The New York Daily News reports that one of those victims, a 27-year-old, later died at Roosevelt Hospital after going into cardiac arrest. "Unfortunately, in this fire, it appears that the victims may had been originally inside in their apartments safe and exited the apartments and become the victims in the stairwells themselves," said Assistant Fire Chief John Sudhik. "It's very important that you stay in your apt in a fire-proof, high-rise building."
Of course, that's not what most people think they should do, as evidenced by Atwal's tweets and the actions of some of his neighbors. "It was really just flight — to try and vacate," said John Lupiano, who along with his wife and two kids, took the stairs out of the building. "The smoke got more intense, but we had no choice but to go down. We're lucky we didn't lose our children and didn't become disabled in the stairwell, where we couldn't see or breathe."
This post has been updated throughout.