Home / World / Christmas Day blaze kills 76-year-old man in Midtown high-rise

Christmas Day blaze kills 76-year-old man in Midtown high-rise


A fast-moving fire in a Midtown high-rise apartment Christmas morning killed a longtime 76-year-old designer who lived there, officials said.


The blaze broke out on the 35th floor of the 36-story high-rise on 56th St. near Seventh Ave. about 7:30 a.m. Monday.


“It was a heavy, wind-driven fire,” FDNY Assistant Chief Joe Woznica told reporters at the scene. “When you have a wind-driven fire like that, it creates a much more difficult and dangerous operation.”


The firefighters rode the elevators to the 25th floor and climbed the stairs the rest of the way, Woznica said.

Fire erupts inside Chelsea building on Christmas day


“The fire was already beyond control by the time we got here,” he added. “The fire was blowing out the windows and it was whipping around.”


Firefighters found John Doktor, an interior designer who worked for Anne Klein Studios, dead in his apartment.


“It’s been pretty awful since we got the news, and especially on Christmas,” said family friend Francine Fish.


Doktor was a business partner and longtime friend of Fish’s uncle, Burt Wayne, who died in 2008.

About 170 firefighters battled the blaze. Two suffered non-life threatening injuries with one taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, the FDNY said.

(Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News)


The two ran Wayne & Doktor Ltd., where Doktor was creative director, and worked alongside fashion giants like Donna Karan.


“They were very good friends for years and years. It was a tragedy,” Fish said of Doktor and Wayne. “I’m still trying to deal with this. It’s very difficult, especially on a holiday.”


She said a detective told her the blaze was believed to be accidental.


Doktor “was a bachelor all of life,” Fish said, and had no children. “We’re still trying to get in touch with his family.”


About 170 firefighters battled the blaze.


Two suffered non-life-threatening injuries.


“I woke up in the morning and smoke was coming from the air conditioner,” said Hao Tong, 29, who lives on the building’s top floor. “I was going to go open the window, and I saw the smoke coming in.

Residents evacuate the building after a fire broke out on the 35th floor, Monday. 

Residents evacuate the building after a fire broke out on the 35th floor, Monday. 

(Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News)


“I thought someone burnt a pot on the stove. But something told me I should still go downstairs,” Tong added.


“I went outside and saw the flames and huge smoke coming out of the window. That’s when I knew it was serious.”


The blaze did not spread beyond Doktor’s apartment. FDNY fire marshals will determine the cause of the blaze.


Hours later, in Chelsea, flames raged on the top floor of a six-story apartment building, leaving one resident and one firefighter with minor injuries.


The fire broke out shortly after 3:30 p.m. on W. 19th St. near Seventh Ave., spewing bright flames from two windows as residents ran into a next-door firehouse for help.


“They wouldn’t let us go back in. We still have a cat in there, actually,” said Smithri Hariharan, 23. “There are a couple people that still have pets in there, I think.”


Another fire in Queens sent two people to the hospital, and one of the victims was in critical condition, authorities said. The blaze erupted on the second floor of a two-story home on 114th St. near 95th Ave. in Richmond Hill. Medics rushed both victims to Jamaica Hospital.

With Dale W. Eisinger, Jefferson Siegel

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