Harlem Bank May Be Demolished After Six-Alarm Fire

January 12, 2014

harlem fire may demolish bankOfficials are expected to determine today whether a bank gutted by fire in Morningside Heights on Saturday will have to be demolished.

Flames broke out in the basement of the Morningside Heights CitiBank at around 5:20 a.m. Sunday and crews were still on the scene overnight.

Late Saturday, the FDNY directed firefighters to stay outside of the structure because they were worried the floors of the building could collapse.

The fire is finally under control after hotspots burned well into the night.

FDNY crews began battling the fire from the inside out early Saturday morning. However, more than 12 hours later crews moved outside the CitiBank on Broadway and 111th when the floor started to cave in.

“The fire is inaccessible at this point, we’re not going to put anyone in there, we’re just going to use exterior lines,” said Deputy Chief Thomas McKavanagh.

No matter inside or out, some 200 hundred firefighters continued to douse the charred structure all night, battling intense smoke and hotspots.

Investigators say the stubborn fire started in the basement. By nightfall, crews were able to contain it to the bank but still could not call it extinguished.

“When it’s hidden, you have to break open the walls, pull down the ceilings and try to find the extent of it before it grows beyond our capability to extinguish it all,” said McKavanagh.

Two beloved businesses next door, The Heights and Samad’s Deli, sustained water damage.

Residents worried about the deli in particular, which has been around since the 1970s.

“It’s a neighborhood fixture that all of us depend on and we know the managers for years,” said resident Alexandra Woods.

“I know the water in The Heights basement and Samad’s basement was about 5 feet, maybe 5 1/2 feet deep, everything is pretty much ruined, “ said Feras Sama, owner of The Heights and Samad’s Deli. “It’s out of my hands so whatever it is, it is, we have to deal with it.”

Residents say they too were personally affected.

“It’s crazy, I mean my apartment smells like a campfire,” said nearby resident Lilly Tuttle.

And traffic was blocked on Broadway from 110th Street to 113th Street.

“I’ve got to go all the way to Riverside and around to 110th to get out, normally I’d just walk to Broadway right there,” said Tuttle.

As for the condition of the money and the safety deposit boxes inside the bank, officials say they have not been able to assess that.

Seven people sustained minor injuries, including three firefighters.

The cause of the fire is still unknown as reported by NY1.

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