Officials: Arson probe in fatal Manhattan apartment fire

FDNY presonnel responded to a fire at 41

FDNY presonnel responded to a fire at 41 Spring Street in Manhattan. Fire fighters were met with heavy flames and smoke from the rear of the building. (Jan. 10, 2013) (Credit: C.S. Muncy)

One person died and nine others were injured Thursday night in a five-alarm apartment building fire in lower Manhattan being investigated as an arson.

The NYPD said a 45-year-old male resident of the building has been taken into custody in connection with the blaze.

Witnesses told the NYPD the suspect started the fire on the second floor of the building after a domestic dispute with a woman over their child, according to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

The woman and child were not injured, he said.

A vacationing California firefighter, eating at a restaurant across the street, first saw the suspect setting the fire, officials said. The firefighter tried to stop the suspect but was unable to, and he called authorities, officials said.

Browne said the man fought with first responders, trying to prevent them from entering the building, and broke a police officer's hand, Browne said. The man was subdued and arrested, Browne said.

The blaze started about 6:40 p.m. and was brought under control about three hours later.

The person who died was found on the third-floor fire escape, Browne said. The person's gender could not be determined, he said.

Fire officials say 200 firefighters battled the blaze in the five-story structure at 41 Spring St., between Mulberry and Mott streets. The building has a Pinkberry yogurt store on the bottom floor.

Chief of Fire Operations James Esposito said the fire quickly spread through the upper floors and to the roof. He said firefighters kept the fire from spreading to adjoining buildings.

Two civilians and seven firefighters suffered minor injuries, according to the FDNY. The officer with the broken hand was hospitalized.

Gilda, 36, who declined to give her last name and is a resident of an adjacent building, said she was coming home from dinner when she saw the fire.

"We were standing here, we called 911. I went upstairs and saw the flame from my kitchen window, and I heard someone screaming 'Please help me,' " she said.

With Kevin Deutsch

and Bill Mason

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday