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At least 34 people, including more than a dozen firefighters, were hurt in a five-alarm blaze that gutted a multi-family apartment building on Staten Island early Thursday and forced a father to throw his two young children out of a second-floor window in a desperate effort to escape the flames, fire officials say.
Crews responded to the fire at the five-unit building on Chestnut Avenue in the Rosebank neighborhood at about 1 a.m., according to the FDNY. By the time crews arrived, flames and heavy smoke were billowing from windows and the roof.
"There was a tremendous amount of fire," said Fire Chief Pete Leicht.
Anthony DiSimone, a man who lived two homes down, said he saw the fire break out in the back of the building. He said they called 911 to report the blaze and then ran over to the apartment with his fiancée.
When they got there, the couple found a father trapped in a second floor with his young son and daughter. DiSimone said he told the man to toss the children down, and he caught the boy. His fiancé caught the girl but fell and injured her shoulder from the impact.
"The father was stuck up there ... he couldn't do anything — black smoke was just billowing out that window," DiSimone told the Staten Island Advance. "So I went underneath — he threw him right to me and I caught his son."
“Hopefully they were all right,” he said of the children. “They seemed all right.”
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Firefighters later arrived and helped the father out of the building. Firefighters say they also rescued several others, pulling ladders up to windows and helping people down the stairs and out of the building.
Of the 34 who were hurt, 11 are civilians, including six children, and 23 are firefighters, officials say. All are expected to survive, but one adult with cardiac issues is in serious condition.
Two hundred firefighters responded, officials say. The fire was contained shortly before 7 a.m.
The Red Cross was at the scene helping residents who were displaced in the blaze.
It’s not clear how the fire started.