Blaze Spreads on a Windy Day in the Bronx, Injuring 9 Firefighters

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By PATRICK McGEEHAN and IVAN PEREIRA
Published: April 14, 2012

Two firefighters who fell through a collapsing floor were among at least nine injured on Saturday afternoon as they fought a fire that spread swiftly from one multifamily house in the east Bronx to three neighboring buildings, officials said.

The trapped firemen transmitted a Mayday call after they were sandwiched between the second floor, which was buckling beneath them, and another that was falling on top of them, said James Long, a spokesman for the Fire Department. Other firefighters entered the burning house and “removed them very quickly,” Mr. Long added.

Neither of the men was seriously injured but they and seven other firefighters were taken to Jacobi Medical Center for treatment. Despite the rapid spread of the flames, all of the occupants of the four buildings escaped. Two of them were treated at the scene; none went to a hospital, Mr. Long said.

Fire investigators were still trying to determine what caused the blaze and exactly where it started. It broke out about 1:15 p.m. in a wood-framed, three story house on Van Nest Avenue. Fanned by gusts of wind, it jumped to the neighboring houses on both sides, scattering the 11 families that lived among them.

Brick facade on the houses masked their interior structures, which are known as “balloon-frame” and are disliked by firefighters because they are especially “susceptible for quick spreading of fire” from floor to floor, Mr. Long said. More than 200 firefighters were on hand to extinguish the fire, he said.

An official from the city’s Buildings Department said the house where the fire started, at 726 Van Nest Avenue, would have to be demolished. The Red Cross was helping the residents of the burned buildings in finding other places to live.

“It’s a disaster,” said Assistant Chief Ronald Spadafora, as crews sprayed water on what was left of the houses. He declared the fire under control about 2 hours and 10 minutes after it started.

By then the block was filled with thick smoke, and the neighbors who had come out to watch had to cover their faces with clothing or their hands as they held up cellphones to take pictures and record videos.

“When I got here, it was all smoke. You couldn’t see anything,” said Michael Cajigas, 19, who lives down the block. “It was pretty bad, the whole rooftop was in flames.”

David Mercado, 48, a Verizon technician who has lived a block away for 20 years, said he saw some of the residents flee one of the burning houses.

“The wind was blowing pretty hard and it spread quickly to the other houses,” Mr. Mercado added.

At the hospital late Saturday afternoon, firefighters from Engine 97 said that at least two other firefighters were still being treated inside.

 

A version of this article appeared in print on April 15, 2012, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Blaze Spreads on a Windy Day in the Bronx, Injuring 9 Firefighters.

 

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