Volume 18 • Issue 14 | August 26 - September 01, 2005

Downtown Express photos by Jennifer Weisbord

A man spoke on the phone under a small terrace fire at Independence Plaza Monday, top. Traffic was stopped on Greenwich St. while firefighters put out the flame.

Woman and puppy saved in I.P.N. terrace fire

By Vanessa Romo

A fire on the balcony of a 15th floor apartment at Independence Plaza North caused a traffic-stopping spectacle on the afternoon of Aug. 22 when fire trucks from eight fire houses, several police vehicles and an ambulance responded to the call.

Francine Drucker, 57, who has lived in the apartment with her 86-year-old mother since the building first opened in 1976, was alone when the fire broke out. “It was really, really frightening,” she said. “I just thought of the whole apartment going up in flames but the fire department was here in no time at all.”

Drucker had been watching television when she first heard “crackling” and noticed “a flash of orange and smoke that looked like a sandstorm” through the vertical blinds of her balcony windows. “I got up to see what was going on outside and it engulfed the whole terrace,” she said. “When I saw the multitude of flames, I dropped everything and called 911 immediately.”

Firefighters arrived within minutes and they rushed her out of the apartment before she could get her puppy Maxi out. They were able to contain the fire quickly and made sure the dog was okay.

The cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation, said a fire department spokesperson. But Drucker, a non-smoker, said it had probably started with a lighted cigarette.

“I’ve seen cigarette stubs and all kinds of garbage coming from further up,” said Drucker, who has found cigarette burns on the indoor/outdoor carpeting that covers the floor of her balcony on several occasions.

Neighbors living in adjacent sections of the 39-story apartment complex said they could smell the fire but were not concerned about it spreading. Bea Schulman, another longtime tenant, who had just returned to her apartment when the fire started described the fire as “nothing major.” “It wasn’t that scary,” she said.

Aside from Drucker, no tenants were evacuated from the building. She and her mother were able to return to the apartment later the same day.

A table and chairs, golf clubs, plants, plastic pots, a kennel cage and a set of car tools that had been put out the night before, were among the items damaged by the fire. Everything on the terrace was destroyed, said Drucker.

Drucker’s apartment sustained substantial water and smoke damage. “The windows and terrace doors broke with the heat, the vertical [blinds] melted, the carpet was soaked and the parquet floors buckled,” she said.

Independence Plaza building manager, Debra Dolan, said the damage to the building was minimal. On a recent visit to the building, few smoke stains were visible on the brick exterior.

Although no one was injured as a result of the fire, Drucker, wearing only a robe and no shoes, slipped in the stairwell as she was being escorted down by firefighters. “They were taking me down to the lobby to give me oxygen because I have asthma and I fell,” she said.

“Thank God no one was hurt and my puppy was okay,” said Drucker.


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