A hotel fire forced panicked residents to jump from windows or tie sheets and blankets together to lower themselves to the frozen ground Friday, and officials said four people were killed and 56 were injured.
Fire officials said arson may have been involved in the blaze at the five-story Billinghurst Hotel, home to between 130 and 200 people, many of them welfare recipients.Temperatures were in the teens while some residents tied sheets and blankets together to slide from their windows.
"There were quite a few jumpers, as you can see (from) these sheets hanging out of windows," said Deputy Fire Chief Salvatore Finazzo.
Aubrey Chappell, 25, said he was in his second-story room when he smelled smoke. "Then I opened the door and I couldn't breathe," he said. "I went to the window, tied sheets (together), grabbed my credentials and climbed out."
Marilyn Gaddies, 40, who lived alone in a first-floor room, said she was listening to music when she heard shouts. "It started on the first floor. Then, it moved up real quick," she said. "All my stuff burned up."
Resident Frederick King said smoke-filled hallways disoriented him when he tried to escape from his fourth-floor room. "I almost fainted," said King, 34. "I had to kick a door in, then jump out a window."