There Was a Raging Inferno In the East Village Today

March 26, 2015 | Bucky Turco

Over 250 firefighters and 130 police officers swarmed 2nd Avenue and 7th street on Thursday afternoon after an explosion collapsed two buildings and ignited a seven-alarm fire in the East Village. At least a dozen people were injured.

According to the FDNY, the explosion leveled 123 Second Avenue and partially collapsed 121 Second Avenue; a fire ripped through adjacent buildings 119 and 125 Second Avenue.

In a press conference on Thursday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the explosion appeared to be “gas-related.” The incident is currently under investigation; Con Edison has temporarily shut down gas in the area.

Peter Frank, 25, was walking back from a meeting at a cafe in the area when he heard a “tremendous explosion” around 3:15. He walked to the northeast side of 2nd Avenue and 7th Street and witnessed the building collapse on the northwest side of the street, minutes later. “You could see just the front facade of the building had just been peeled away,” he told ANIMAL. Frank and others at the scene began yelling at cars to keep moving through until the NYPD arrived. He estimates that between “15 and 20 good samaritans” were helping people out of the rubble.

There was one man, in particular, who stood out. The man, dressed in “jeans and a white long-sleeved thermal shirt and a green camouflage hat” rushed to the scene. “He climbed every floor of the fire escape,” said Frank, all the way to the top, kicking in at least one window in an effort to help residents evacuate. “He got down just as the flames were starting to pick up,” Frank recalls. (If you know who this excellent samaritan is, please email ANIMAL at tips@animalnewyork.com).

The NYPD were the first to arrive, according to Frank, and eventually pushed the crowd back to 2nd Avenue and 5th Street. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in the press conference that firefighters arrived on the scene “in less than three minutes to a scene they certainly didn’t expect to see.” The fire was reported at 3:17 PM.

Frank saw at least one person who appeared to be seriously injured among the chaos. One woman was “holding a bandage to her ear,” Frank said. “A doctor went into Spice and used that as a temporary triage center for her.”

As of 7PM, firefighters were still dousing what was left of the three buildings, which appear to be on the verge of collapse.

(Videos/Photos: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)