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Fire Strikes Midtown Manhattan Building

November 22, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ A fire erupted Thursday night in a new 45-story office building, injuring 17 people and trapping hundreds in the skyscraper while the blaze was extinguished, authorities said.

The three-alarm fire began in construction materials on the vacant third floor of the Tower 49 Building in midtown Manhattan and was declared under control just over an hour later, fire officials said.

While some of the people were able to get out of the building while the fire was burning, many were trapped by smoke and had to wait until the blaze was out and firefighters could escort them down stairways, officials said.

″The doors were so hot you could actually see steam coming off them,″ said Joanna King, 24, who worked on the eighth floor. ″Then the smoke started seeping through and it was so foggy we couldn’t see. We just laid on the floor and waited.″

″We were all leaning against the windows and waving,″ said Elizabeth Venezia, a secretary with First Boston Corp. on the 31st floor. ″We thought they must see us, but no one did anything right away and we were a little nervous.″

About a dozen windows were blown out by the heat and at least that many were smashed by firefighters to put out the fire and allow the smoke to escape. Fire hoses dumped 2 inches of water into the marble lobby.

Seventeen people were reported injured, including six firefighters and an emergency medical worker. Two of the firefighers were hospitalized, one with a knee injury and the other with burns, the Fire Department said. The others injured, including two who were hospitalized, suffered smoke inhalation.

Fire Chief John O’Rourke said the third floor was gutted and the two floors below suffered extensive water damage.

The building, although partially occupied, is still under contruction inside, said O’Rourke.

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