2007-08-10 / Front Page

Flare Sets Fire, Forces Evacuation Of BHYC

By Howard Schwach

Fire marshals and police detectives are investigating the origin of an errant flare that set fire to a local catering hall on Friday, August 3, forcing more than 100 party-goers into the street.

Several eyewitnesses have told investigators that they saw the flare either in the air, or striking the rear of the Belle Harbor Yacht Club, located at Beach 126 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

"I was sitting with friends on the roof

a building on the boardwalk at Beach 125 Street when we saw a boat shoot a flare towards the peninsula," one young woman, who asked not to be identified, told The Wave. "It went overhead and then we saw the smoke coming from the other side of the peninsula."

John McCann, a spokesperson for the Belle Harbor Yacht Club, said in a telephone conversation that people told him that the flare came from "uptown."

Fire officials declined to discuss the flare question, and would only say that the cause of the fire is "under active investigation."

Because the fire was in the rear of the building, housing a storage room and an office, many of those at the private graduation party being held by the Kearny family for their two daughters did not know of the fire until an off-duty firefighter, Kevin Adams, entered the bar and advised them all to evacuate the building.

Adams and two friends were driving by the facility, on their way to Long Beach, when they spotted the smoke coming from the rear of the building.

While the other two called 911, Adams dashed into the building to warn those at the bar. Then, grabbing a fire extinguisher from the wall, he found the fire and began to fight it until fire units arrived.

When the wind shifted and the smoke became too dense, Adams, who could no longer see clearly, felt his way into the kitchen and then out of the building, where he was met by incoming fire units - Ladder 137 and Engine 268, who then were joined by other Rockaway fire units to extinguish the flames.

Fire officials say that the first call came in at 8:37 p.m. and the fire was declared under control at 9:14 p.m.

All told, four engine units and two ladder units responded to fight the fire.

McCann says that the yacht club is open for business and that the kitchen will reopen shortly.

Fire officials say that three firefighters suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation and that there were no civilian injuries as a result of the fire.

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