A ferocious fire tore through a multi-million-dollar condo building under construction in Chelsea early Tuesday, displacing neighbors including famed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis over fears the burned building may collapse.
The five-alarm blaze on W. 17th St. near Seventh Ave. erupted about 2:55 a.m. and raged for more than four hours as FDNY units shut down surrounding streets.
“I was reading a book because I couldn’t sleep and all of the sudden I hear an explosion,” said Marise Green, 49, who lives across the street.
“I look outside and I see the building across the street in flames… A lot of smoke. A lot of flames.”
Putting out the fire was dangerous work, FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said.
“There was a lot of open shafts, a lot of holes in the floors,” he said, adding that the building’s sprinkler system had been removed during the renovations.
“There were spaces between the walls that really lead to rapid fire growth.”
The fire was brought under control at 7:11 a.m., but the building remains in “major danger of collapse,” Leonard told reporters at the scene.
“We are keeping everybody away from the building,” Leonard said. “We have a few other buildings that are evacuated because of the potential collapse and this is going to be an extended operation.”
No injuries were reported.
“We’re afraid of the front of the building collapsing into those buildings across the street,” Green said. “We cannot stop a collapse. This building will burn and smolder for quite some time.”
The fire broke out on the fourth floor of the under-construction six-story building.
“The whole block was covered in smoke,” a clerk at a nearby deli told the Daily News. “Fire was coming out the windows.”
It took about 250 firefighters to beat the fire, which had been fanned into a frenzy by buffeting winds.
“Upon arrival, we had heavy fire on the top three floors of the building,” Leonard said. “We met fire on the third floor when we got up there.”
A night watchman was the only person in the building when the blaze broke out. He escaped unharmed and was being questioned, Leonard said.
Residents in three neighboring buildings were seen clutching whatever belongings they could grab as they fled — including trumpeter Marsalis, who fled with a horn in his hand, according to 1010 Wins.
“Everything’s good,” said a man who answered the phone at Marsalis’ home hours after the fire. “We saw a fire but it was across the street from us.”
Marsalis was in rehearsal, the man said.
Fire marshals will determine what sparked the fire. The city’s buildings department will also be sent in to conduct a “structural stability inspection,” officials said.
The building, dubbed the Dorian, was slated to grow to 10 stories of condos by the end of 2016, the Real Deal reported in May. The remaining available units had price tags of $3 million to $6.4 million, according to the developer’s site.
The only complaints logged against the building since 2012 were over its elevators, which would sometimes skip floors, according to city records.