School evacuated, residents flee after Harlem fire sends loud explosions echoing throughout neighborhood

Residents fled without their shoes to try and escape a Harlem blaze on May 25.
Photo by Dean Moses

A Harlem roof fire caused a school evacuation and prompted community members to run into the burning building to assist residents on Thursday afternoon, eyewitnesses told amNewYork Metro.

Flames and black smoke burst from a five-story rooftop on 360 West 119 St., at Morningside Avenue, that overlooked two schools at around 2:58 p.m. on May 25, sending about 60 firefighters flocking to the scene, FDNY sources said. 

The fire erupted following several explosions, according to eyewitnesses. Ralph Bradley, who was near the scene at the time of the explosions, said he heard the sounds and saw the flames rising into the sky. He then went into the apartment building to help notify residents and help them escape.

Guy Smith clutched onto his dog as he was being treated by EMS. Photo by Dean Moses
Guy Smith (left) and Nelson Barr (right).Photo by Dean Moses

“I heard boom, boom, boom. And I saw a raging black smoke. So, I said let me come down here and see what’s going on,” Bradley recalled. “I ran into the building and knocked on doors and helped a lady grab her son. They didn’t know about it. It was on the roof, it’s just shocking.”

Residents from the apartment building fled, some even leaving without shoes. Guy Smith and Nelson Barr said they grabbed their dogs and ran. However, Smith also said he tried to put out the flames.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

“It sounded like fireworks, it sounded like something exploded. People were yelling from the get-go,” Barr said, explaining that he woke up to the chaos.

“I saw the fire and I frantically ran in to get the dogs,” Smith said, coughing heavily. “I shouldn’t have tried to put it out. Now my lungs feel f**king burned.”

Smith was treated at the scene by EMS, however, FDNY reported that there were no other injuries. The fire was placed under control at around 3:40 p.m. Thursday.

A staff member at the Police Athletic League told amNewYork Metro that personnel evacuated children from the PAL facility and the adjacent Morningside Child Care. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses