A fire destroyed at least 80 homes in Queens neighborhood Breezy Point before firefighters battling flames while standing neck deep in water got it under control.
City officials said most of the area had been evacuated before the fire started, according to NBC New York.
"The winds were just devastating, blowing from one building to the next one," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The six-alarm fire was contained by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 hours after it was first reported, NBC also noted. Nearly 200 firefighters responded to the fire, of which the cause is not yet known.
"It was terrible," said Steve Mastrandrea, a Breezy Point resident and volunteer fire fighter, reported CNN. He also said he was "trying to give a helping hand and ... got trapped."
"We couldn't help anybody," he continued. "I couldn't even help myself."
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Mastrandrea's home was one of those destroyed by flood waters and fire.
"We couldn't tell if the fires were 100 yards or a mile away," he told CNN. "It was just so bright. I couldn't tell where it was.
"I thought we were going to have to jump in the water," he added.
According to the Associated Press, firefighters said 25 people were trapped in an upstairs unit of an apartment building while the fire from a two-story home next door was spreading. Firefighters had to climb an awning to rescue the people, and then took them to a boat in the flooded street.
No serious injuries were reported from the fire.