E. SIDE INFERNO

NY Post - October 14, 2006

by JOHN DOYLE, MURRAY WEISS and BRADEN KEIL

A landmark Upper East Side townhouse undergoing major renovations for a socially prominent fashion family erupted in a tower of flames early yesterday.

Fire officials said the blaze - first reported at 2:30 a.m. - swept quickly through 115 E. 70th St. because the building had been completely gutted, creating a chimney effect.

The building is owned by Coach leather-goods president Reed Krakoff and his interior-designer wife, Delphine.

The couple paid $17 million for the building in September 2005.

"It looked like a volcano erupting," said Rachel Callison, house-sitting four doors away on the tony block between Lexington and Park avenues known as "Millionaires Row."

"There was some sort of explosion after the fire started," Callison said. "There was a boom. I heard it through the soundproof windows at about 3 a.m."

Callison was one of about 20 people on the block evacuated by fire officials.

Those living in the buildings immediately adjacent to the townhouse were told they couldn't return last night, said Buildings Department spokeswoman Jennifer Givner.

A crane was brought to the scene early last night to remove steel beams that had been warped by the intense heat, and a sidewalk shed and scaffolding were erected as a safety measure, Givner said.

Fire officials, who initially considered the fire suspicious, said they now believe it could have been accidentally set, possibly by construction workers using an acetylene torch.

They noted there was a lot of lumber in the building to fuel the fire.

The Krakoffs were converting the building from a multi-family dwelling to a single-family residence - which is what is was when it was built in 1921 for blueblood iron-foundry owner I. Townsend Burden.

It was unclear where the couple was yesterday. The Krakoffs also own a home at 157 E. 61st Street.

There were "six sizable renovation projects" under way on the tony block in September, according to a report in The New York Times.

One of the six is being done for Woody Allen, who owns a townhouse diagonally across from the Krakoffs'.