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4-year-old girl saves family from Harlem apartment fire


A 4-year-old’s cry of “fire!” alerted an East Harlem family to danger — likely preventing lives from being lost.


Little Izabella Nugent awoke to flames early Friday in the apartment on the sixth floor of the Johnson Houses, where six others were also staying.


Her mother, Carmen Nugent, 26, recalled sifting through the charred wreckage of the apartment a day later — and said her daughter was a hero.


It was Izabella who first saw the fire, hollered and grabbed her 3-year-old sister, Scarlett.

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“My oldest daughter told everybody there was a fire…she woke up out of her sleep to fire. She woke up my youngest daughter and said, ‘there’s a fire, we have to get out now,’” Nugent told the Daily News.


“If she did not wake up my youngest daughter we would not be here.”


Scarlett suffered burns to her right foot but was out of the hospital and recovering. Three other boys between the ages of 4 and 14 were also at home, as well as Nugent’s sister-in-law Jennifer Nugent and her boyfriend, Jose Sid.


Firefighters who pulled the family out of the smoke-filled apartment said the blaze was caused by a space heater plugged into an extension cord, but an FDNY spokesman said Sunday the cause had not yet been determined.

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Nugent disputed that the space heater was to blame, but was counting her blessings.


Jennifer Nugent, 26, had also made life-saving decisions in the chaos.


She took Izabella, Scarlett and her 4-year-old son, Jaiden, into the least smoky room and held their heads out of a window, allowing them to breathe.


“It happened so fast. The only thing I was worried about was getting out these kids. My only concern is everyone got out safe,” Jennifer said.

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“I had the kids heads out the window so they could breathe.”


Sid, 31, injured himself breaking windows. He was in stable condition in a medically-induced coma due to smoke inhalation.


“There’s blood on the floor still from him,” Carmen Nugent said.

Firefighters work at the site of a fire at an East Harlem apartment building.

Firefighters work at the site of a fire at an East Harlem apartment building.

(Danny Iudici)


“This was a tragedy. It was devastating for us. It hurts. All of us have to go through it. Now we all have to start over.”


A GoFundMe for the family had earned $720 toward a $15,000 goal.


During a sad search through the charred apartment Nugent got some good news: four turtles and a pet snake had somehow survived. Two turtles were under rubble and two others were still in a tank, as was their California kingsnake.


The kids hadn’t learned of the reptilian survivors, however — Nugent feared it would prompt a conversation about a kitten and 10-year-old cat that did not make it. The family dog also survived.


Nugent said she’ll show the kids their pets in the next few days.


“I’m sure they’ll be happy. Everything else they know is gone,” Nugent said. “Even their blankets they were attached to are lost. They haven’t asked for them — because I think they know.”

With Laura Dimon

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