A candle left burning ignited a predawn fire Friday at a Hempstead apartment building, forcing "numerous" people to flee to their balconies, where they were rescued by some of the more than 100 firefighters who helped extinguish the blaze, officials said. Credit: Howard Schnapp, Paul Mazza

A candle left burning overnight ignited a predawn fire Friday morning at a Hempstead apartment building, forcing about 50 families to evacuate their homes, including roughly a dozen who were rescued from their balconies, county and fire department officials said.

Four residents of the seven-story building at 135 Clinton St. were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for treatment of smoke inhalation and for minor cuts and bruises, officials said. No firefighters were injured battling the blaze

Responding firefighters found "heavy fire in the rear of the building coming from a second-floor apartment, with numerous occupants trapped," Michael Uttaro, the Nassau County's chief fire marshal, said at a news conference Friday in the rear parking lot of the Hempstead building.

The second-floor apartment was equipped with a working smoke detector, officials said, potentially avoiding tragic consequences.

"If it had not gone off, you could gather what may have occurred," Uttaro said, adding, "It could have been a tragedy."

The blaze was first reported to authorities at 2:48 a.m. when the lone female occupant of the apartment was alerted to the fire by her smoke detector, Uttaro said.

Members of the Hempstead Fire Department arrived on scene within four minutes and a total of roughly 100 firefighters from 11 departments helped extinguish the blaze within about an hour, officials said.

About 50 families were displaced in an early-morning fire at...

About 50 families were displaced in an early-morning fire at an apartment building in Hempstead on Friday, a Nassau fire official said. Credit: Lou Minutoli

Responding firefighters found "heavy fire in the rear of the building coming from a second-floor apartment, with numerous occupants trapped," Uttaro said.

The building was occupied by about 75 people in total. Roughly a dozen were rescued from their balconies by firefighters using ladder trucks, said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Firefighters found "numerous residents trapped inside," Curran said. "It was an intense scenario."

The fire was confined to the second-floor apartment although the entire building filled with smoke, Uttaro said.

All occupants of building were initially evacuated but by Friday afternoon all but six families had returned to their apartments, Curran said. Those six families are now being assisted by the Red Cross, Curran said.

The fire, Curran said, was determined to be "accidental and not suspicious caused by an unattended candle left burning overnight."

Raheel and Uzma Siddique, who live on the fifth floor with their 1-year old son Rayan, said they awoke to the sound of their smoke alarm going off.

"We didn’t think about anything," said Uzma Siddique, who contends that first responders took longer to respond than disclosed by county officials. "We took our cellphones and our baby and just came down."

The family returned to their apartment Friday morning to find heavy smoke damage.

"It was unexpected; crazy damage," Raheel Siddique said.

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