Tag Archives: Fire

Tenant charged with attempted murder, arson in fire that destroyed eight Woodhaven homes


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the FDNY

Updated Monday, March 23, 12:41 p.m.

BY SALVATORE LICATA AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

A man was arrested for allegedly setting a fire that caused eight houses in Woodhaven to go up in flames on Wednesday night because his landlord had just evicted him.

Luis Lopez, 30, a tenant at 91-21 90th St., where the blaze started, was arraigned on Friday on charges of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson, endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated cruelty to animals in connection to the fire that left eight injured and killed two dogs, the Queens district attorney’s office said. Lopez, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was being held on $100,000 bond, according to court records. His next court date is April 7.

“The defendant is charged with setting a fire that could have killed numerous people and did take the lives of two dogs — all because the defendant was allegedly angry about being evicted from his apartment,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Arson is a serious crime and the defendant now faces spending a considerable amount of time in prison.”

On Wednesday, at about 8 p.m., Lopez was ordered to vacate the premises of where he was living, according to officials. About 10 minutes later, the landlord and her boyfriend smelled smoke. The door was blocked from the other side and it took them several attempts to escape from their basement apartment, prosecutors said. As the two fled, they saw smoke and an orange glow coming from Lopez’s first-floor bedroom.

By the time firefighters arrived at the two-story home, the flames had spread to the roof and adjacent residences.

The Courier/Photo by Salvatore Licata

The Courier/Photo by Salvatore Licata

About 39 units and 168 members responded to the blaze, which left six residents and two firefighters with minor injuries. The fire also displaced more than 60 individuals, officials said.

“The investigative work by our fire marshals resulted in the timely arrest of this suspect,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Setting a fire is a serious crime with potentially deadly consequences. Fortunately there was no loss of life at this incident, but tragically the quick moving fire destroyed eight homes before being brought under control.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich, Assemblyman Mike Miller and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) announced on Friday the creation of a special relief fund by CCBQ to help the families affected by the fire.

Donations will go toward providing essentials including gift cards to local supermarkets, clothing, replacement household furniture and other necessities. Monetary donations can be made payable to CCBQ online at www.ccbq.org or by mail. Contributions should designate “Woodhaven Fire Victims” in the memo. For more information contact CCBQ’s Office of Development & Communications at 718-722-6202.

“We cannot erase what occurred, but this fund will help these families work towards rebuilding for a better tomorrow,” Miller said. “We ask the community to help in any way they can to assist these residents in this time of need.”

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Four-alarm fire tears through Woodhaven homes, injures eight


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Updated 3:11 p.m.

BY SALVATORE LICATA AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA

A four-alarm fire broke out in a Woodhaven home Wednesday night, tearing through several neighboring houses and injuring eight people, the FDNY said.

The smell of ash filled the air as firefighters and first responders started to clean up some debris on Thursday morning from the fire-stricken houses that were ripped through by flames the night before.

The blaze started at about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of a two-story private home at 91-21 90th St., near 91st Avenue, according to fire officials. It was raised to four alarms by about 8:45 p.m and spread to the second floor and attic area.

Photos courtesy of FDNY

Photos courtesy of FDNY

As about 168 firefighters tried to control the flames, the fire spread from the house to seven other homes that all share a common attic area, according to published reports.

Walls of many of the houses were still intact but the attics were ripped through and daylight could be seen coming through the roof from the torn out windows of many houses.

Eight people, including two firefighters, were hurt in the blaze, the FDNY said. All the injuries were minor.

The Red Cross was at the scene of the fire, where it assisted 20 adults and eight children with temporary lodging and emergency funds for food and clothing.

“Our teams will ensure that the emergency needs of those impacted are met — temporary lodging, food, clothing, emergency financial assistance and emotional support,” said the Red Cross in a statement.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who urged the passing of state legislation calling for an end to cocklofts in aging row houses in a statement following Wednesday night’s fire, will be providing drop-off sites for those affected by the blaze. He previously trumpeted the legislation following a September 2013 fire in Middle Village that severely damaged six attached homes.

Donations of clothing and other essential items can be dropped off at the senator’s Middle Village office at 66-85 73rd Pl., and Howard Beach office at 159-53 102nd St.

The cause is still under investigation.

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77-year-old woman found dead in Rockaway fire


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic Image

Updated 2:41 p.m.

An elderly woman was killed Saturday afternoon after an accidental fire sparked by a cigarette broke out in her Rockaway Beach apartment, authorities said.

The blaze started about 1:35 p.m. on the seventh floor of a building at 107-10 Shore Front Pkwy., according to the FDNY. Firefighters were able to control the flames, which were contained to one apartment, by about 2:15 p.m.

Inside the residence, they found a 77-year-old woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Police did not immediately release the victim’s identity.

No other injuries were reported.

The FDNY said the cause of the fire was smoking and that there were no working smoke alarms in the apartment.

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Jackson Heights fire caused by food on stove: FDNY


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/@nicky_andacatnamedmishu

A fire at a Jackson Heights apartment, which injured two people last week, was caused by food left on a stove, according to fire officials

The two-alarm blaze began at 11:33 p.m. on Feb. 12 on the top floor of 35-64 81st St. and was under control about an hour later, the FDNY said.

The two injured people were taken to Elmhurst Hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

Fire officials also found no working smoke detectors in the home.

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Three hurt in St. Albans house blaze


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic Image

Updated Monday, Feb. 16, 10:31 a.m.

Firefighters and a neighbor rushed to help the residents of a St. Albans home after a fire broke out in the two-story house early Saturday morning, published reports said.

A space heater ignited the blaze in the basement of the residence on 119th Road near 178th Street about 5:40 a.m., according to the FDNY. There were no working smoke detectors in the home.

Next-door neighbor Lawrence Leone saw the smoke streaming out of the house and, along with his brother, grabbed a ladder to try and rescue the people still inside, reports said.

The smoke had consumed the first floor and the only way the residents could escape was through the second story, Leone told CBS New York.

“I grabbed the ladder so I could put it by the roof so they could be able to climb down,” he said.

One person jumped to safety, another was able to get down on his own, and a third was too scared to use the ladder and had to be rescued by firefighters, according to published reports.

The residents were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in stable condition.

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Two injured in Jackson Heights fire


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/@nicky_andacatnamedmishu

A fire that erupted in a Jackson Heights apartment Thursday night has left two injured, according to the FDNY.

The two-alarm fire began at 11:33 p.m. on the top floor at 35-64 81st St. and was under control by 12:39 a.m., the FDNY said.

Photo via Instagram/@xd0minikaa

Photo via Instagram/@xd0minikaa

The two injured people were taken to Elmhurst Hospital with serious, non-life-threatening injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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Bay Terrace blaze during snowstorm caused by unattended candle: FDNY


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Video via Vine/FDNY

A burning candle left unattended in a Bay Terrace home during Monday’s snowstorm sparked a fire that ripped through the second floor of the building, fire officials said.

Video footage posted by the FDNY shows the flames shooting from the second floor and roof of 15-62 Waters Edge Dr.


The fire started about 8:30 p.m. Monday at the private residence amid a blizzard warning and as snow was falling. Windy conditions made it more difficult for firefighters to battle the two-alarm blaze, according to police. It took 105 firefighters until about 10:15 p.m. to control the flames.

No injuries were reported.

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Fire breaks out at Bay Terrace home during snowstorm


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via Twitter/109th Precinct

Windy conditions from a blizzard that was blasting the area Monday night helped fuel a fire that broke out at a Bay Terrace home, authorities said.

The two-alarm blaze started about 8:30 p.m. on the second floor of 15-62 Waters Edge Dr., the FDNY said, eventually spreading to the roof of the two-story private home.

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It took 105 firefighters until about 10:15 p.m. to control the flames after high winds made conditions more difficult, according to the FDNY and 109th Precinct.

No injuries were reported. The cause is still under investigation.

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Oakland Gardens man pleads guilty to setting fire to pal’s Little Neck apartment


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

fire

What’s a fire between friends?

For one Oakland Gardens man, it could mean some serious prison time.

Ezra Barashy, 26, pleaded guilty to third-degree arson Tuesday for setting fire to his friend’s Little Neck basement apartment this summer, according to the district attorney’s office. In his plea, he admitted to intentionally tossing a Molotov cocktail at the home of his pal.

Surveillance video shows Barashy approaching his friend’s residence on Aug. 22 with a gas can and running to a waiting car, the district attorney’s office said. Inside the car was his friend’s girlfriend. Barashy had known both of them for several years and allegedly drove the girlfriend to and from the crime scene shortly before 7 a.m.

Barashy’s friend woke up when the Molotov cocktail set his apartment door on fire. He put out the blaze with a pot of water.

The arson incident isn’t the first time that Barashy has been in trouble with the law, according to the district attorney’s office.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree for shooting at the home of a Queens Supreme Court judge in October 2008. Barashy was sentenced to two years and six months in prison.

Barashy is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10 for the arson plea. The judge indicated on Tuesday she would hand down a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

“The defendant has pleaded guilty to having set a fire that could have been deadly, if not for the quick-thinking actions of the victim,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The defendant, who has already served time for firing shots at the home of a Queens Supreme Court judge, will be going back to prison and the public will be safe from his violent tendencies.”

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Fire guts Whitestone home, kills family’s beloved dogs


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ray Colalillo

Flames gutted a Whitestone house on Wednesday afternoon, leaving the three-story home a smoldering shell and taking the lives of the owners’ two pet dogs.

“My two dogs were killed and they were the most valuable things I had,” said James King, who with his wife owned the house at 149-61 Powells Cove Blvd.

King and his wife were out of the house when the Fire Department called him about the fire.

But the couple’s shih tzu dogs, Benjamin and Chip, were inside the home, where they died in the blaze.

According to neighbor Ray Colalillo, the fire started in the rear of the home, which faces the East River, at 1:30 p.m. and quickly moved through the front of the building as strong winds stoked the flames. The Fire Department characterized the fire as a “two-alarm” blaze, and it took an hour for firefighters to extinguish the fire. When the firefighters arrived, they swiftly broke through the front windows and jumped into the blazing home, according to Colalillo.

Photo courtesy of Whitestone Civic Association

Photo courtesy of Whitestone Civic Association

“At first I saw smoke from my window,” Colalillo said. “And then pretty soon flames were bursting out of the windows and skylights. By then I called the cops. Within five minutes firefighters were here and they moved quick.”

The Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire. King’s son and daughter, who are now adults and no longer live at the house, looked on as firefighters picked through the wreckage of the home they grew up in.

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Online fundraisers set up to help Astoria roommates after fire destroys home


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Duncan Pflaster

In less than half an hour Andrew Rothkin, Kim Jones and Duncan Pflaster lost the place they have called home for more than five years after a fire ripped through their Astoria apartment early Wednesday afternoon.

Pflaster, an administrative assistant and also a playwright and photographer, said he received a call from Jones at around 1 p.m. Wednesday telling him he needed to come home because as she was out running errands their 35th Street apartment had been engulfed in flames.

Their roommate, Rothkin, had been home alone and his space heater caught on fire, Pflaster said. Rothkin was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with severe second- and third-degree burns and smoke inhalation, but was released Friday and will recuperate with his family in Baltimore.

According to the FDNY, a call for the fire was received at 10:48 a.m. and about 60 firefighters arrived at the two-story home with the fire at the rear of the first floor. The blaze was under control at 11:20 a.m. One firefighter sustained minor injuries.

“When I saw the mess, the state of everything, it was just this horrible sinking feeling. When I was allowed to go up and see, it was just terrible,” Pflaster said about what he saw once he got home.

According to Pflaster, the apartment is destroyed, and every window had to be broken by the FDNY. There are holes in the ceilings and walls, and Rothkin’s room was “gutted,” causing him to lose everything — even his cat, Pepper.

“I think I was in shock for a bit. A lot of it was strangely beautiful: holes in the ceiling give a lovely light,” Pflaster said. “There was a lot of just standing around not knowing how to even begin to clean up.”

Yet, even in these tough times a light has shone through the darkness for the three roommates from online fundraisers, started by friends, that have raised thousands in just one day.

Three separate accounts have been created on gofundme.com for Rothkin, Jones and Pflaster to help them recover from the fire and also raise enough money to sign a lease on a new apartment. In total the fundraisers have raised more than $25,000 since Friday.

“It is just wonderful. People have been so generous. People I haven’t seen in years, people I think didn’t really like me, everyone has done what they can,” Pflaster said. “It’s incredibly moving and I keep tearing up when I think of so many people who have helped out.”

Pflaster, who was able to recover some clothes and other items, is staying with friends in Astoria until he finds a new place. He also said he has had offers of furniture, clothes and gift cards.

When asked what he would tell all those who have been helping them out during this time, Pflater said, “Thank you so much. It’s been such a relief in this horrifying time. We all appreciate your support so much.”

To donate to the gofundme campaigns, visit www.gofundme.com/andrewrothkin, www.gofundme.com/jvt5oc or www.gofundme.com/jwpczs. A Facebook page has also been created for the friends.

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Fire safety education campaign launched at LeFrak City following fatal New Year’s Eve blaze


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A new campaign has been launched at LeFrak City to help educate residents to prevent a tragedy like the New Year’s Eve fire, which killed three people, from occurring again.

Just minutes before ringing in 2015, an unattended pot of a traditional Haitian soup cooking on a stove sparked a fire that left three dead in their Corona apartment and sent flames shooting from the ninth-floor balcony, officials said.

The FDNY determined the blaze was accidental, and no working smoke detectors were found in the home.

Police identified the victims, all residents of the apartment, as Nadia Donnay, 37, Louise Jean-Charles, 59, and Napolean Michel, 69.

In response to the fire, state Sen. Jose Peralta, together with the FDNY, LeFrak City Organization and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, announced on Thursday the launch of a fire safety education campaign for the apartment complex. 

“New Yorkers awoke on New Year’s Day to news of the horrific tragedy that struck LeFrak City just as we were all ringing in 2015 and looking forward to the promise the new year held for us and our loved ones,” Peralta said.

During this campaign, the FDNY will conduct fire safety education presentations for tenants on Jan. 14 and Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the Continental Room of the Rome Tower of LeFrak City, located at 96-10 57th Ave. 

Food Bazaar Supermarkets donated $500 worth of smoke detector batteries, which will be available to tenants who attend the presentations, made possible by the FDNY Foundation.

“The lesson from the fire is that a working smoke alarm can be a life-saving piece of home safety equipment,” Peralta said. “An operating smoke detector provides a quick and early warning, providing the extra few seconds needed to escape a fire and potential tragedy.”

According to Gerald Rivera, general manager of LeFrak City Maintenance Services, owners are required to periodically replace smoke detectors upon expiration of their life, which is about 10 years. The replacements must then have a non-removable and non-replaceable battery that gives power to the alarm for a minimum of 10 years.

“LeFrak City has a proactive program to replace all campus detectors over a two-year period, a full year in advance of the required deadline,” Rivera said. “Since December 2013, we have replaced 1,600 of the old smoke detectors and will complete all remaining 3,006 replacements by the end of 2015.”

Malikah K. Shabazz, a tenant and president of the LeFrak City Tenants’ Association, said she will inform other tenants about the presentation by working with management to post notices on each floor and in the lobby, and send emails reminding people.

“We get comfortable and take a lot of things for granted and a lot of times we have to constantly be reminded to take precautions when you’re cooking or whatever you are doing that uses flame. You just have to be very careful,” Shabazz said. “It’s a blessing for them to come into our community and assist us in any way that they can.”

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Deadly Jamaica house fire caused by extension cords: FDNY


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic Image

A Jamaica house blaze that killed one man and left his 89-year-old mother injured was an accidental fire sparked by extension cords, the FDNY said.

The electrical fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m. Monday in the basement of a single-family home on 118th Road near Marsden Street, authorities said. It took firefighters until about 5:10 a.m. to put out the flames.

There were no working smoke detectors in the two-story house, according to the FDNY.

A 64-year-old man was taken to Queens Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead, authorities said. His mother was transported to Franklin Hospital in stable condition.

A third person refused medical attention at the scene.

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Victims of Ozone Park 5-alarm fire could be out of their homes for three to six more months


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Residents of an Ozone Park apartment building watched their homes damaged by flames just a week before Christmas. And now it looks like they won’t be returning home for months to come.

It may take up to three to six months for the building at 103-45 97th St. to be made livable again as the owner and architect are working around the clock to get it fixed as soon as possible, according to a representative from Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office.

The owner has just about finished cleaning debris from the fire- and water-damaged building and is now in the process of working with city agencies to move plans for repairs forward.

The architect who took over the project will be sending plans to the Department of Buildings as early as this week in a bid to get city approval to patch up the roof and seal the windows, making the building “water tight” and livable again, the representative said.

OZP_BUILDING2

Once all the construction is finished, that will conclude the first phase of the recovery process. After it is finished, the process will move much faster and residents will be able to get back into their homes.

The representative said that at this point there has been no problem with communication between the owner of the building and the city, and that the city has been very receptive to this case.

The fire started around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 18. The attic and fourth floor sustained most of the fire damage, and the other floors mostly had damage from the torrents of water used to extinguish the five-alarm blaze. It took firefighters two hours to bring the fire under control.

Most of the building’s residents found shelter with families, but some turned to the Red Cross for help. They were given a free place to stay over that weekend, and if they still couldn’t find a place to live after that, they had to go down to the Red Cross corporate headquarters in Manhattan to be put on a list for temporary housing until they can return to the building.

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Corona church closes ‘until further notice’ after electrical fire


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2:10 p.m.

Devoted parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church will have to find another place to worship next week after a Sunday morning blaze ripped through their beloved sanctuary.

Church officials are not sure how long it will take to make the extensive repairs. But crews were already at work Monday.

The fire broke out at 5:45 a.m. on the first floor of Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, located at 104-11 37th Ave., not long before parishioners were expected to begin attending the first Sunday morning Mass, the FDNY said.

According to published reports, Monsignor Thomas Healy of Our Lady of Sorrows led prayers outside the church Sunday after having to cancel all masses.

Two firefighters were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with minor injuries.

Fire marshals determined Monday that the cause of the fire was electrical due to wiring in the organ pipe tower.

According to the Diocese of Brooklyn, the church has close to 12,000 to 13,000 parishioners and has been serving the community since 1872.

“All of our shrines, churches and cathedrals are sacred and special in their own individual ways. What makes Our Lady of Sorrows stand out is that it is a parish of immigrants in the Diocese of Immigrants,”  the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement.

On Monday the block in front of the church remained closed off by police tape, as construction crews worked on repairing the site. There are flyers posted around the block letting residents and parishioners know that there are no Mass services until further notice.

According to a receptionist at Our Lady of Sorrows, it could take one to two weeks for the doors of the church to open again because they want to make sure the area is safe and clean.

Weekday and Sunday Mass services have been now moved to the auditorium of Our Lady Of Sorrows Catholic Academy, located at 35-34 105th St. For the service schedule, visit www.olschurch-corona.org.

The school itself was closed Monday because electricity had to be shut off due to the fire. Classes are expected to resume Tuesday, according to the school’s website.

“The Diocese of Brooklyn is fully committed to helping this church rebuild so that it may continue serving its faithful community as it has been doing since 1872,”  the Diocese of Brooklyn said in the statement. “As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, let us pray for our fellow parishioners in Corona during this time of rebuilding.”

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