Harlem Inferno Hurts 38 By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

Sunday, August 3, 1997

A raging fire tore through the top floor of a Harlem apartment building yesterday, forcing firefighters to use a tower ladder to rescue a man trapped by the flames.

Nearly 200 firefighters raced to the five-alarm blaze at 31 Tiemann Place, a street of low-rise residential buildings just west of 124th St. and Broadway.

Fire marshals described the fire as suspicious and said the cause was under investigation.

“The flames were leaping out, they must have been 15 feet high,” said Alvin Ponder, who lives across the street from the six-story brick building. “It’s only by the grace of God that there wasn’t a fatality up there.”

Thirty-eight people — including 35 firefighters — suffered mostly minor injuries in the 10:11 a.m. fire that took just more than two hours to bring under control. Fifteen firefighters were hospitalized, including five for burns and two for broken ankles.

More than 40 people, including four children, were left homeless by the blaze, said Julissa Viana, a Red Cross spokeswoman.

Saad Kadhim, 46, was about to open up his restaurant across the street when he saw flames and billowing gusts of smoke.

“I ran into the burning building and started knocking on doors, telling people to get out,” he said. “By the fifth floor, the smoke started to get very thick, and I had to run back out.”

Firefighter Ali Pasha reached the top of the building by ladder to rescue Arthur Whaley, 38, who was trapped inside his apartment.

“It was a wall of fire,” said Pasha, who brought Whaley down on the ladder.

Two other neighbors were also rescued after lower-floor residents were evacuated.

Original Story Date: 080397