2014-02-28 / Front Page

Fire At Peninisula

By Dan Guarino

Alarms went off all across Rockaway and firefighters rushed to the scene as smoke billowed out from the now closed Peninsula Hospital main building on Tuesday, February 25th.

At 4:47 p.m. callers to 911 reported signs of a fire at the rear of the building. Some reported hearing an explosion, although FDNY sources could not confirm one had occurred.

“I could see this huge, black smoke cloud as I drove by,” said Norma Allende, who works in the area. “I turned the corner and there it was.”

In all, 12 FDNY units and more than 60 firefighters responded to the all-hands alarm. Police and EMS were also dispatched to the scene.

Witnesses stated they saw smoke which appeared to be coming from the sub-roof just above the old emergency room area.

One man, standing across the street on Beach 53rd Street, just off Rockaway Beach Boulevard, said second and third floor windows appeared to be either broken out or blown out.

Firefighters accessed the roof via ladder and quickly had water on the blaze. By 5:42 p.m., the fire Firefighters get close to the blaze which broke out at the rear of the closed Peninsula Hospital building. Photo by Dan GuarinoFirefighters get close to the blaze which broke out at the rear of the closed Peninsula Hospital building. Photo by Dan Guarinowas under control according to FDNY reports.

An FDNY spokesperson stated that the fire started in the diesel boiler room at the rear of the hospital. The blaze was deemed “non-suspicious,” however, it is still under investigation.

No injuries were reported.

PSEG of Long Island, the new power company for Rockaway, reported that 2,400 customers lost power due to two circuits being locked out by the fire. A PSEG spokesperson described this as an automatic safety mechanism which functions like a circuit breaker being tripped.

A 101st Precinct spokesperson noted that additional specialized NYPD personnel “were moved into the area during the blackout.

“Our job is public health and safety,” he said. “That meant finding people who needed medical assistance, people who need power for their equipment.

“The second part of that during a blackout is looking out for increased crime.”

Regarding the power outage caused by the Peninsula fire, the PSEG spokesperson confirmed, “We had the majority of customers, 99 percent, back up in under an hour. The rest were shortly thereafter.”

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) confirmed that the fire “affected several of our developments, including Ocean Bay Apartments, Bayside and Oceanside, Beach 41st Street and Carleton Manor.

“Within one hour, PSEG had restored power to the area, bringing all developments back up, except for Ocean Bay (Bayside), which required additional work by NYCHA electricians. Power service was restored at Ocean Bay two and half hours later.”

According to NYCHA, some 6,647 residents live in the buildings affected by the blackout. There is no back-up power system at these developments.

The Peninsula Hospital Center, founded in 1908, closed permanently on April 9th, 2012, and has remained unused since. In its 104 year history, it provided medical service to the Rockaway/Broad Channel community and surrounding areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau County.

In October of 2012, the property, including the adjacent, still-operating Peninsula Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation, was purchased by Michael Melnicke for approximately $24 million.

As The Wave went to press, Melnicke had not responded to an e-mail request for a statement on the fire and/or the future of the closed buildings.

A report from the Fire Marshal regarding Tuesday’s Peninsula fire is still pending.

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