Open Door Turned Brooklyn Fire Into Deadly Inferno, Fire Officials Say
Dec 09, 2018
An open door helped fuel the Brooklyn blaze that raced like a blowtorch through the building, killing a beloved retired schoolteacher and injuring dozens of others, fire officials said Sunday.
The front door to the fourth-floor apartment where the fire began was left open, feeding the vicious flames that killed Mary Feagin and injured 20 firefighters and 11 residents Saturday evening, officials said.
Feagin, 64, was remembered Sunday by downstairs neighbor Samuel Hampton as "one of the nicest ladies in the world."
"She was one of the most loving, caring people you'd ever know. She always helped everyone in the building," said Hampton, a Vietnam vet.
Feagin had lived in the six-floor building on E. 29th St. in Flatbush for 34 years and served as president of the tenants association. She worked for two decades as a teacher at Public School/Intermediate School 323 in Brownsville.
"She cared for everyone in this building," said Vincent Hill, 42, Feagin's nephew. "If there was ever a problem, she was there to make sure it was solved."
More than 200 Bravest raced to attack the five-alarm blaze, which started about 6:30 p.m. The open door and wind gusts of up to 50 mph drove the fire quickly down the halls and through the building - especially after tenants began breaking windows to escape.
"The wind pushed the fire into the building and [acted] like a blowtorch," Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Moro said.
Firefighters were turned back by raging flames as they tried to get inside to fight the blaze. It was hours later that they found Feagin dead in her apartment on the sixth floor.
Tenant Shavan Agard recalled the horror of climbing down the fire escape with his 2-month-old baby daughter, Sophia.
"I grabbed her and that's it," said Agard, 34. "I went out the window and carried her down."
Carol Gay, 51, was watching TV when she heard people shouting, "Fire! Fire!"
"It could've been worse," she said. "I have my life."
The cause of the blaze is unknown, but Moro said it did not appear to be suspicious.
Evacuated residents are staying at a motel, but most had no idea where they would go next.
"I don't even have a phone charger,"said Kareem Shabazz, 48.
The firefighters union said the response to the fire was hampered by new city rules that put four firefighters instead of five on some trucks.