Tag Archives: five alarm

Queens nonprofit programs look for new home after 5-alarm fire caused by overloaded power strip


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Riyad Hasan

Lilian Castillo lost what felt like her second home last week after a five-alarm fire, caused by an overloaded power strip, engulfed a Jackson Heights building.

Castillo was a former student at the Queens Community House (QCH)’s Adult Education/English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and is currently an employee for the nonprofit organization.

QCH, which provided four of its programs at the Bruson Building, located at 74-09 37th Ave., lost its home when the building’s third and fourth floors went up in flames the evening of April 21. Various other organizations, businesses and Plaza College were also housed inside the building.

“When I came to this country from the Dominican Republic, Queens Community House was the first place that welcomed me,” Castillo said. “It was where I met the people who became my friends. I feel as if I lost my second home in the fire.”

The Jackson Heights site was home to QCH’s Adult Education/ESOL program, which provides free intensive English and citizenship classes; immigrant services, providing assistance with citizenship and other legal residency needs; a CASP program, helping youth who have obtained a diploma through a non-traditional high school apply to and succeed in community college; and its Queens Center for Gay Seniors, the borough’s only senior center primarily serving an LGBT older adult population.

Also lost in the fire was a computer lab that was used by all four programs, which aided about 300 residents daily.

“The Center was full of many special, shared memories from the past decade,” Program Director John Nagel said. “Photos, awards, artwork…all gone.”

QCH has been able to secure some space at the Sunnyside Community Services for its Adult Education English classes. It’s Queens Center for Gay Seniors will operate out the QCH’s Kew Gardens Community Center.

According to the FDNY, nine people sustained minor injuries as a result of the fire, including seven firefighters and a police officer.

The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical due to an overloaded power strip, according to the FDNY.

Anyone interested in helping QCH, can visit www.queenscommunityhouse.org.

 

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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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