A four-alarm fire engulfed a Bushwick row house Friday night, killing two people.
The fire spread quickly, according to neighbors who witnessed the three-story building at 16 Covert Street go up in flames. The inferno trapped Gregory "Uncle Jiggs" Atkinson, 44, and Frank Edwards, 56, in their 3rd floor bedroom as the flames spread to three adjacent buildings.
Neighbors tried to help the victims, yelling for them to jump, but the fire was too intense. Edwards was found dead on the 3rd floor and Atkinson either jumped or fell out of a third story window and was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Fire Dept. officials who spoke with NY1, a resident on the 2nd floor using a hot plate too close to a bed sparked the fire. The residents tried to smother the flames with a bedspread but that too caught fire, forcing them to flee.
A next-door neighbor claimed the rooms in the building were rented by the week and mostly men lived in the house. Records show that the Dept. of Buildings had filed complaints against the residence for illegal conversions.
A makeshift memorial was created in front of the house where family and friends had gathered and were visibly distraught. Richard Nelson, 22, who knew both victims, said Uncle Jiggs was like the "block father" of Covert Street.
"He was very friendly and funny. He would sweep up the entire block and made sure this place stayed nice. A good guy all together," said Nelson, whose sister lived across the street from Uncle Jiggs. According to Nelson, Uncle Jiggs’ family lived throughout the area and saw him perish in the flames.
"Everyone on the block knew them. You wouldn’t see Jiggs without Frank. They were tight like glue."
Correction: It was Atkinson who jumped, not Edwards as we first reported.