Ten families were left homeless after a three-alarm blaze raced through a five-story, 21-unit apartment house in Hamilton Heights early Sunday morning, destroying many of the apartments in its path.

The blaze is believed to have broken out on the third floor of 625 W. 138th St. shortly before 7 a.m. and zipped through the third, fourth and fifth stories, fueled by winds that reached 40-miles-per-hour, said FDNY spokesman Mike Madison. Freezing temperatures, which in turn caused "really slippery conditions" increased the difficulties for the 33 units that responded and managed to extinguish the blaze by 8:46 a.m., said Madison. Two of the 138 firefighters who battled the fire were taken to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center with minor injuries. A civilian with minor injuries declined treatment.

The American Red Cross was on the scene yesterday helping to arrange emergency housing for victims burned out of their homes. This blaze was the seventh in the city within 14 hours to which the Red Cross Greater New York Region had responded, noted spokesman Michael De Vulpillieres.

It couldn't be determined yesterday if this weekend's spate of fires presented an unusually high number, but "the cold brings on many bad things," Madison acknowledged. People rely more on area heaters and other electrical appliances which might spark a blaze, and fires that start are more difficult to contain when freezing winds are present, Madison said.