Blaze Guts Building
“There were two ‘mayday’ conditions,” the fire department’s press office told The Wave.
One firefighter, identified by fire officials as Evan Davis, battling the three-alarm inferno at 424 Beach 129 Street in Belle Harbor, quickly found himself surrounded by high heat and heavy smoke while conducting searches in the rental apartment on the second floor. Davis called in a mayday, telling fellow firefighters that he was trapped and in trouble. He managed to use his service rope to rappel out a window, according to Deputy Chief James DiDomenico.
“You couldn’t see the hand in front of your face,” DiDomenico said of the dangerous conditions. The firefighter landed safely on a lower level roof about ten feet below the apartment and was quickly pulled to safety by other firefighters.
Lieutenant Richard Barnes was caught in a collapsed floor and was pulled to safety by firefighters from his engine crew.
The fire began just after 10 a.m. and raged for more than two hours before being brought under control at 12:36 p.m.
“I have to credit the firefighters, who were here two minutes after we first smelled the smoke,” said the owner of the bicycle store next door to the burned building. “They were professional and worked for a long time to put out the fire.”
The residents in the apartment lost everything in the fire.
“Firefighters knocked on the door and told me to get out,” one resident watching the fire on the street said. “On the way down, I just had time to grab my cat. I lost all my furniture and all of my clothes – everything.”
Red Cross workers were on the scene and found temporary housing and clothing for those who were dispossessed by the fire.
The heavy smoke spread down the block to other stores and the lack of electricity forced the stores on the eastern side of the busy block to close their doors, or at least to curtail sales.
Officials believe that the blaze started in a cellar oil burner and spread quickly through the rear wall to the shop and apartments above, but fire marshals said they would launch a full investigation.
The two injured firefighters were taken to Peninsula Hospital and listed in stable condition.
In all, twelve firefighters and one civilian suffered what fire officials termed “green tag,” which means that the injuries were minor.
Some of the injured were taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway and others to Brooklyn hospitals.
All were treated and released, fire officials said.
The all-hands fire drew 33 fire units and 108 firefighters to the busy shopping street.