Man who died in Manhattan high-rise fire should have stayed in apartment: FDNY

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He picked the wrong stairwell.

Daniel McClung died trying to escape a Hell's Kitchen high-rise blaze Sunday because he chose to flee down a stairwell that firefighters were using to run a hose to the flames - leading it to become inundated by smoke, fire officials said.

"That's what we call the attack stairwell," FDNY spokesman James Long said of the stairs chosen by the 27-year-old playwright and his husband, Michael Cohen, 32, who suffered critical injuries from smoke inhalation.
Flames and smoke emerge from the 20th floor of the Strand on Sunday.
Flames and smoke emerge from the 20th floor of the Strand on Sunday.

Firefighters used that stairwell for hoses because it was closer to the burning 20th-floor unit than a second stairwell. Because doors were opened for firefighters to access the stairwell, the attack stairwell filled with smoke that overcame the couple. McClung and his husband entered the stairwell on the 38th floor, but didn't make it past the 31st floor.

Cohen remained at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell on Monday, FDNY chief of operations James Esposito said.

"I believe he is still in very serious condition in the hospital," Esposito said.

The blaze erupted in a 20th-floor apartment on W. 43rd St., sparked by a power strip with multiple "low-grade extension cords" plugged into it, Long said.
Investigators survey the scene of the fire in the 43rd St. Building.

The tenant of the apartment where the fire started was not home at the time, officials said.

Smoke poured into the attack stairwell when firefighters opened the door so they could get water from the standpipe, which is in the stairwell, to the fire. The door would have been propped open to ensure the hose wasn't pinched, allowing for more oxygen to pass through and feed the flames, Long said.

"They're probably in there before we even get to the attack stairwell and then we pop open the hallway door and ‘Boom!' the smoke is coming up at them with a greater level of heat," he said.

Firefighters who found the couple were on their way to the roof to open up a door to vent the smoke from the entire building, Long said. The venting protocol for high-rise building's was put into place in 2010, he said.

Fans also would have been activated on the first floor to blow the smoke upward, but they hadn't been turned on when the men were overcome, Long said.

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