Three fires erupted within hours in central Manhattan Sunday, the most serious in a West Side high rise that left two adults hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation, according to the FDNY.

"Many people self evacuated," from The Strand, 500 W. 43rd St., where a fire broke out around 11 a.m. in a 20th floor apartment, said FDNY Asst. Chief John Sudnik.

"It was scary. We thought we were going to die," said John Lupino, 40, who fled the building, barefoot, with his wife and two boys from their apartment on the 40th floor. The family forged through dense, choking smoke on the stairwell before the air cleared around the 17th floor, allowing them to breathe.

The FDNY typically advises people to remain in their apartments inside fireproof high-rises when fires erupt outside their own dwellings, said Sudnik. In this blaze, "1it appears the victims in this fire may have been originally in their apartments, safe, and exited their apartments and became victims," said Sudnik.

"The stairwells could have been more dangerous, but there was an overwhelming feeling to flee," said Lupino, who planned to stay with a friend nearby. He and an unknown number of families were barred from returning to their apartments in the condo tower.

The adult victims, who were found in a 31st story stairwell, were taken to hospitals, Sudnik said. More than 150 firefighters battled the blaze for an hour and 40 minutes before it was extinguished. The cause remains under investigation.

Another blaze at Toloache, a restaurant at 251 W. 50th, drew 40 to 50 firefighters from four ladder companies around 10 a.m., blocking traffic for at least an hour. There were no injuries, said Deputy Chief Tom McKavanagh. The restaurant blaze is believed to have begun as a result of "creosote buildup with in the duct work," leading from a wood-burning oven, McKavanagh said.

The FDNY tweeted around 1:35 p.m. yesterday that a third fire, at 346 E. 21st street, had been brought under control.