Firefighters at the scene of the Staten Island blaze on...

Firefighters at the scene of the Staten Island blaze on Friday afternoon. The call, on Shotwell Avenue, came in at 1:26 p.m. Credit: Steve White

Three firefighters were seriously injured and 19 others hurt Friday afternoon on Staten Island when a fire in a private home spread to an adjoining property, according to the FDNY.

The three firefighters were at Staten Island University Hospital north, the FDNY's press office said. Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said Friday they were in “very serious but stable condition” but added "they are going to be OK." The department said they remained hospitalized Saturday.

The 19 others were treated for minor injuries, Kavanagh said. 

The call to the duplex on Shotwell Avenue came in at 1:26 p.m.

Kavanagh said units got to the scene less than four minutes after the first call and encountered heavy smoke and fire. Eleven minutes in, there was a report of a firefighter down; 18 minutes in, a signal of a trapped firefighter, she said.

“I cannot emphasize enough that this was a very close call for the FDNY. We could have lost three members today," Kavanagh said during a briefing at the hospital. "But it was thanks to the brave work of our members, including those who went in and saved their fellow firefighters, rescued the trapped members, brought them to EMS on scene, treated them immediately and brought them to this hospital … [that] they are going to be OK.”

Those displaced console one another Friday in Staten Island.

Those displaced console one another Friday in Staten Island. Credit: Howard Simmons

The blaze was brought under control by 2:46 p.m., the FDNY press office said.

Firefighters believe the fire started between attached setbacks behind the home and quickly spread to both buildings. The cause is under investigation. 

The home was fully engulfed when two engines split up to fight the fire from the left and the right of the duplex, Chief of Department John Hodgens said.

"There was heavy wind at the fire, and as firefighters were inside searching for occupants, the windows failed and the wind blew fire intensely right at the firefighters," Hodgens said. 

Two firefighters were trapped by fire and called "Mayday!" from the second floor, Hodgens said.

One of them was able to jump off the second-floor balcony onto the driveway. A squad member was able to reach the second floor and rescue a trapped FDNY lieutenant, Hodgens said. 

The third critically injured firefighter was manning the hose nozzle, attempting to douse the flames, when he was hit in the face by falling plaster. The debris knocked off his mask and he became disoriented while inhaling heavy smoke, Hodgens said. 

The back of the home collapsed in flames, but the firefighters were not affected. The three critically injured firefighters suffered a variety of injuries but were alert, "cracking jokes" and talking, Kavanagh said.

Firefighters at the scene.

Firefighters at the scene. Credit: Howard Simmons

Dr. Nicole Berwald, medical director at the hospital, said it operates as a regional burn ward and trauma center. She said they braced for the firefighters to arrive and immediately began treatment.

"I feel confident our team will continue to deliver the highest level of care to get us through this crisis that is winding down," Berwald said. "We’re all happy to see [it] as we take care of New York’s bravest." 

The FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association criticized FDNY officials for having closed the nearest station, Engine 167, on Friday for medical exams, potentially delaying response.

“We are thankful that there was no loss of life, and hopeful that this will be a wake-up call to the City to provide the resources to the FDNY to keep all firehouses open every day to help NYC Firefighters do their jobs and help keep both Firefighters and NYC residents safe," Union president Andrew Ansbro said in a statement.

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