An early morning five-alarm fire in Staten Island injured 34 people, including one critically, and burned for hours, said a New York Fire Department spokesman.

The fire initially broke out just after 1 a.m. in a two-story building on Chestnut Avenue in Rosebank. It was quickly upgraded to a four-alarm fire and hours later it was still raging.

It was upgraded to a five-alarm blaze by 3:42 a.m., the spokesman said. It was brought under control at 8:46 a.m., he said.

A total of 11 civilians, including one who was critical, and 23 firefighters were injured. The ailments ranged from minor to serious, the spokesman said.

The circumstances surrounding the start of the blaze were unclear.

Victims were taken to two area hospitals.

The fire severely damaged three buildings on the residential block, displacing at least five families, said Michael de Vulpillieres, a spokesman for the American Red Cross Greater NY Region.

He said the Red Cross would provide services to those who needed it, including temporary housing as well as funds for food and clothing.

The Staten Island Advance newspaper reported neighbors Anthony DiSimone and his fiancee, Darleen Cerzosie, heard a man screaming from a second-story window of the burning building.

"The father was stuck up there, dangling his son outside ... he couldn't do anything - black smoke was just billowing out that window," DiSimone was quoted as saying in the Advance.

"So I went underneath. He threw him right to me and I caught his son," DiSimone said, adding that the boy appeared to be about 5 years old.

The man also tossed out his daughter, believed to be about 3 years old, who was caught by Cerzosie, the newspaper said on its website. Both children appeared to be shaken up but otherwise fine, Cerzosie said.

— With Reuters