FDNY: Cluttered Chinatown apartment made fire more challenging to fight; 2 in critical condition

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LOWER MANHATTAN -- Flames shot out from the third floor windows of an old tenement building, creating a dangerous and challenging firefighting situation in a congested area on the border of busy Chinatown and Little Italy, according to the FDNY.

Firefighters were able to get through the smoke and flames to rescue an elderly woman and her home attendant, but both of them are in bad shape.

The fire was reported at 12:42 p.m., and firefighters were on scene by 12:46 p.m. Still, some four hours later, firefighters were still hard at work. Even though they were able to declare the fire under control in less than an hour, there were still hot spots, and worse still, according to the senior commander on the scene, one of the two apartments on the third floor of the building, where the fire broke out, was full of clutter.

"It'll take an hour or two to remove all the debris in that apartment and do a secondary search," said Deputy Assistant Chief Michael Gala, at a brief news conference near the building in question, 113 Mott St.

The secondary search to which he referred is a search for survivors, or for bodies. Firefighters carry out such searches immediately on a arrival at a scene. In this case, their search resulted in their finding some women on the top floor of the four-story building, who were in trouble.

"Ladder [Company] 20 was able to remove a 90-plus year old female, and 40-plus year old home attendant," Chief Gala said.

The firefighters were able to bring the women down four flights of stairs, amid flames and smoke, to safety. The women are in critical condition at a downtown hospital.

Firefighters remain on scene, unloading debris from the burned out apartments, particularly the one that had been full of clutter when they'd arrived. The fire chief said that he did not expect any bodies to be found in the debris.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by fire marshals.

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