Thursday, January 14, 2010

Candle Blamed for Apartment Fire

Four-Alarm Blaze in Kew Gardens Injures Five

By Conor Greene

Fire officials say an unattended candle is to blame for a quick moving fire that gutted several apartments in a Kew Gardens apartment on Monday afternoon.

Four firefighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries in the fire, which broke out around 11:45 a.m. in a second floor apartment at 84-70 129th Street. The fire quickly spread to the third, fourth and fifth floors and went to four alarms by 12:15p.m. before it was brought under control at 1:11 p.m., according to the FDNY.

As crews worked to keep the fire from spreading to the building’s top floor, two police officers who were on duty outside a nearby school raced to the scene and helped evacuate a woman and her young daughter. Initial reports indicated residents were trapped inside due to heavy smoke, but fire officials say an “aggressive attack” kept it from spreading.

“We saw the woman stepping out onto the fire escape, and that’s when I proceeded to jump over the fence, climbed the fire escape… grabbed the baby and walked them down,” Sgt. Kevin Bishoff of the 102nd Precinct told reporters. He teamed up with Officer Johnny Becerra to help the residents escape the blaze.

“It went to four alarms,” FDNY Deputy Chief James Didomenico said at the scene. “We were able to stop it on the fifth floor. It did not get to the sixth floor through an aggressive attack. Had it gotten to the sixth floor and possibly gotten into the cockwall it could’ve been a major, major fire and much worse than today.”

On Tuesday, debris from the destroyed apartments was piled in front of the building, which was charred and boarded up. A notice was posted on the door ordering some residents to vacate their apartments, while tenants in other parts of the building were allowed back inside.

Shamin Naz, who has lived in the building for 21 years, said that she and her family were very lucky on the day of the fire. “I was at the hospital with my daughter for an examination,” said Naz. “I got a frantic call from my brother saying the building was one fire.”

Naz immediately began trying to get in touch with her other children to make sure they had left the building. “When I was able to contact them I felt so lucky. For the other people who were trapped, I just say thank God no one died. The apartments, they can be put back together. No one died.”

The Red Cross is providing assistance to the up to seven families left homeless by the fire.

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