Five people trapped in an apartment fire were rescued by firefighters early this morning in East Harlem. The apartment was on the third floor of a building on East 102nd St. At 4 a.m., the residence quickly filled with smoke and flames after the family's Christmas tree ignited. Firefighters believe the cause was faulty wiring on the tree's lights. When Charlene Southerland woke to the smell of smoke, she realized she and her husband were trapped inside her bedroom because the living room was ablaze. The apartment was also occupied by two of her daughters and one of the daughter's boyfriend.
Responding firemen managed to get the five occupants out using ladders leading to bedroom windows and by pulling others out through the smoke-filled living room.
"We could hear people yelling for help and screaming," said Lt. Gregory Prial.
Prial, a decorated 26-year veteran, made his way into a bedroom, where he found a woman lying on the floor, burned and semiconscious, and dragged her to safety.
Other firefighters saved a man who was wedged into a window and a woman who was about to jump. Two others were also rescued.
The survivors were taken to different New York hospitals to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation of varying degrees. Tips on how to minimize the risk of fire with Christmas trees, including video of how quickly a tree can become an inferno.