Tag Archives: Fire Department

Retired FDNY chief, Queens native named fire commissioner


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Updated 7:55 p.m.

A retired FDNY chief and Whitestone resident has been tapped to lead the city’s fire department.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Daniel Nigro as the new FDNY commissioner at the department’s academy on Randall’s Island Friday.

Nigro, 65, who was raised in Bayside, was named chief of department, the highest ranking uniformed position, in 2001 when Chief Peter Ganci Jr., was killed in the Word Trade Center collapse. He retired in 2002 after more than three decades with the FDNY.

The new commissioner will be tasked with bringing more diversity to the department after the city settled an FDNY racial discrimination suit with the Vulcan Society, an association of black firefighters, in March.

“We must no longer wait for a judge’s ruling to tell us what fairness means. We must get out front. We must point the way to change. There is no place in the fire department of our beautiful, diverse city, for injustice and inequality,” Nigro said.

During his time with the department, Nigro oversaw the 1996 merger of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) into the FDNY. That experience was one reason behind de Blasio’s decision in naming Nigro to the position, according to the AP.

“From reducing EMS response time, to fixing our 911 call system, to increasing workforce diversity, especially in hiring more women—we have a lot to do in the fire department. I look forward to working with our new commissioner to make the necessary reforms to keep New Yorkers safe,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, said in a statement.

Nigro is replacing Salvatore Cassano, who has served as FDNY commissioner since 2010.

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Five-alarm fire engulfs Jackson Heights commercial building, injuring nine


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Riyad Hasan

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO 

Updated 1:55 P.M.

A five-alarm fire broke out Monday night at a Jackson Heights building that houses a college and several businesses, leaving nine injured.

The blaze was reported about 5:45 p.m. on Monday, April 21, at the 74-09 37th Ave. building’s third and fourth floors, the FDNY said. By 10 p.m. it had grown to five alarms, with 44 units and around 200 firefighters responding. It was finally under control at about 11:40 p.m., according to fire officials.

An FDNY spokesman said nine people sustained minor injuries as a result of the fire, including seven firefighters and a police officer. The ninth victim, according to published reports, was a child from a nearby building who was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

The community’s “biggest immigrant service provider,” Queens Community House, an LGBT senior center, Plaza College and about 50 other offices, stores and businesses were located inside the fire-damaged structure, according to Councilman Daniel Dromm.

“This is a devastating fire for our community,” Dromm said. “I have spoken to the business owners, many who I know personally, and the effect on their establishments is truly horrible. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. We will rebuild and come back as a better and stronger Jackson Heights.”

Charles Callahan, president of Plaza College, said classes were not in session when the fire began and he has not been informed of the cause of the fire on the partially vacant floors.

“All faculty, staff and students were safely evacuated from the building,” a post on the school’s Facebook page said. It added there will be “no services of any type” at the college Tuesday.

Plaza College, which has about 750 students, has been located in the building since 1971 and has been planning to move to Forest Hills in September 2014. Classes were expected to begin in May.

However, at the moment, school officials are surveying nearby sites to find a temporary location for the school until September.

“We want to help students ensure that they aren’t misplaced. I’m sure we’ll get through this,” Callahan said. “My heart goes out because this has been my home for all these years.”

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation and firefighters were still at the scene as a precaution as of Tuesday morning, according to the FDNY.

 

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Op-ed: Stay safe – and warm – this winter


| oped@queenscourier.com

 SALVATORE J. CASSANO

More than a third of all serious fires in New York City happen during the winter months, when people often resort to unsafe measures, as they attempt to heat their homes and stay warm. As a result, there are many preventable fires resulting in unnecessary loss of life and property.

Some fires are caused by unattended open flames, such as decorative or commemorative candles, fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. They should never be left unattended and you should always extinguish them completely before going to bed at night.

Other fires are caused by electric heating equipment and the devices used in conjunction with them, like extension cords and power strips. Portable space heaters and electric blankets can be extremely dangerous if they are poorly maintained, inappropriately powered, or – in the case of space heaters – placed too close to combustible objects. You should not purchase these products, or any power strips or extension cords unless they are Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) approved and have the UL mark. You should also periodically check the integrity of these products to ensure that they don’t become too worn or damaged for use.

Most importantly, every home should have working smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors. These devices save lives. We know this because in nearly 80 percent of the fire deaths in recent years, the Fire Department found no working smoke alarm present.

We have made education about the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms a cornerstone of our Fire Safety Education (FSE) effort. Teams of Fire Safety Educators conduct hundreds of information sessions each year throughout the city, reaching about 600,000 New Yorkers every year, and at the same time they distribute hundreds of thousands of free smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries and tens of thousands of detectors.

During the last year we’ve focused our fire safety efforts on communities impacted by Sandy, because of the many problems associated with the storm in these areas. Dozens of serious fires occurred both during and in the aftermath of the storm, as salt water impacted home electrical systems, and residents in these areas resorted to unconventional and even dangerous ways of heating and powering their homes. This winter, through the Hurricane Sandy Fire Safe Program, Fire Safety Educators have been reaching out to older New Yorkers in areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island that were hit hardest by the storm, hosting educational events, visiting homes to conduct fire safety reviews and discuss fire safety exit plans, and installing smoke, carbon monoxide and hard-of-hearing alarms.

The FDNY has done an extraordinary job in reducing the number of fatal fires in New York City in the last decade – which has been overall the safest in nearly a century of recordkeeping. But, even one death by fire is too many – so, our goal and commitment is to do everything possible to protect everyone from the danger of fires and that starts with prevention.

Please do your part in protecting yourself and your family by adhering to these basic winter fire safety tips, which can be viewed in full at: on.nyc.gov/JhUFjt.

Remember – working smoke detectors save lives! Please make sure you have them in your home!

Salvatore J. Cassano is New York City’s 32nd Fire Commissioner

 

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Firefighters battle two-alarm Hollis blazes


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of FDNY

Two separate two-alarm fires broke out within an hour of each other in Hollis Tuesday night, the FDNY said.

More than 100 firefighters and 25 units were called to a blaze at a home on 191st  Street near 109th Avenue, about 10:30 p.m.

On a night where temperatures dipped into the single digits, the fire was caused by a space heater, starting on the second floor and spreading throughout the house, according to the FDNY.

One person who was inside at the time of the fire escaped without injuries. No one else was hurt in the blaze, fire officials said. It was under control by 11:40 p.m.

A vacant home on 198th  Street near 104th Avenue in Hollis caught fire about 11:30 pm., the FDNY said.

Twenty-five units and around 100 firefighters were also called to the two-alarm blaze.

The fire, which was contained to the home’s basement and first floor, was under control by 1:15 a.m.  No one was injured, fire officials said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

 

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Manhole fire breaks out on Francis Lewis Boulevard


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER

A manhole fire broke out in Flushing Monday night, the FDNY said.

The Fire Department responded to the blaze at Francis Lewis Boulevard near 33rd Avenue about 8:10 p.m., and, as of 8:30 p.m., were still on the scene and awaiting Con Edison, the FDNY said.

No injuries were reported.

 

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73-year-old dies in fire at Flushing retirement home


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A two-alarm fire at a Flushing retirement home Thursday killed a 73-year-old woman, police said.

The fire broke out just after midnight in an apartment at Flushing House, located on Bowne Street near 38th Avenue, according to the NYPD. Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze about 3o minutes later.

Responding officers found a woman, who police identified as Natalie Blatt, inside the apartment, and she was taken to Flushing Hospital where she was pronounced dead, cops said. No one else was injured or displaced as a result of the blaze.

The fire is still under investigation, according to the FDNY.

 

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50 years later, memorial honors six who perished


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

The Maspeth fire that took the life of six firefighters 50 years ago was long-forgotten by most not involved in the deadly blaze, buried in the ashes of a razed soap factory. For others who battled the blaze that day or lost a family member, the wounds remain fresh, even after five decades.

“I’ve been passing by this [spot] and I always had a tear in my eye that nothing was ever done; that no plaque was ever put up,” said John Killcommons, 78, who was among the men who responded to the fire at the Sefu Soap and Fat Company on October 26, 1962.

The six who died that day — Captain William Russell and firefighters Richard Andrews, James Marino, Richard Gifford, George Zahn and Francis Egan — were honored for their sacrifice at a plaque unveiling 50 years to the day after losing their lives.

“There isn’t a fire engine that goes by here that doesn’t blow its horn,” said Marc Eberle, an employee at VIP Auto Body, which now stands on the site of the fire.

Eberle and the shop’s owner, Peter Keane, discovered charred wood remnants of the ruins during renovations a couple of years ago. Eberle hunkered down at a library combing through microfilm, researching the reason behind the burnt beams.

When Eberle informed Keane of the six lives lost, he was determined to honor the men.

“These six firemen, their kids grew up with no father,” said Keane. “We had to do something.”

Hundreds of firefighters attended the ceremony on 56th Road with Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano unveiling the plaque.

“Few if any firefighters that are here today knew any of these six men; most of you were born after they passed. But they live on in the overwhelming support that you show,” Cassano said.

It may have taken half a century, but Killcommons is relieved that the men lost are finally getting the recognition he believes they deserve.

“It goes to show, it’s never too late,” said Killcommons. “It’s never too late to do something that should have been done a long time ago.”

Serial arsonist, who set 13 fires in Queens, arrested


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A serial arsonist has been arrested and confessed to setting 13 fires in Flushing, including a three-alarm inferno that injured 19 firefighters and two civilians in August, fire officials said.

Thien K. Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was arraigned in Queens on September 15 and charged with starting a series of fires within a three-week span across Flushing and Murray Hill from August 20 to September 13, according to the district attorney’s office. He faces two counts of second-degree arson, four counts of third-degree arson, 13 counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree burglary.

“Arson is a callous crime that shows total disregard for the lives and property of those it impacts,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. “I commend our fire marshals in the Bureau of Fire Investigation for their tireless efforts to apprehend this individual whose actions have endangered the lives of New York City residents, injured many firefighters and caused a tremendous amount of property damage.”

Dinh admitted to the offences, according to a criminal complaint, including igniting the blaze at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street on August 20 that gutted adjacent businesses and totaled the four-story multiple family dwelling.

He said he first broke into the laundromat on the first floor of the building, where officials said the flames originated from, using a hammer to smash through a window and lit clothing and paper on fire, the criminal complaint said.

Dinh also owned up to starting the other rubbish fires that lit up Flushing over the last few weeks, the district attorney said, which caused extensive damage to numerous parked vehicles and multiple buildings. In several instances, Dinh allegedly set fire to 30 to 40 garbage bags lined up on the curb and to furniture thrown out on the sidewalk.

Fire officials said the Bronx resident has 45 prior arrests for many crimes including burglary, property damage and criminal mischief. He is due back in court on October 3.