Suspicious Fire Kills 3 in Brooklyn Building

NY Times - March 29, 2011

by ELIZABETH A. HARRIS and C.J. HUGHES

A suspicious fire tore through a four-story building in Brooklyn on Monday evening, killing three people, two of them children, and seriously injuring another person, Fire Department officials said.

The cause of the fire, at 1150 Putnam Avenue in Bushwick, was not immediately known, but Deputy Chief Stephen Moro said that it was being treated as suspicious because it began in the stairwell, not a location where something like a stove or an electrical device would be likely to spark a flame by accident.

The fire began around 5:30 p.m., officials said, and took an hour, 12 trucks and about 60 firefighters to subdue.

"They were met with heavy fire on the second floor," Chief Moro said. "Our units made a tremendous push."

When the flames were finally put out, the red brick building was left a shell, with every window broken or blown out and deep, black smudges spread across its facade.

Shameeka Hughes, 31, who lives across the street, said she called 911 from her cellphone. Her husband, Joshua Landy, 23, said he saw smoke and flames pouring out of the windows and front door of the four-story house.

"I heard a ruckus," he said, "like screaming."

Police Department officials said that two people, a 62-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl, were found dead on the top floor of the building. A 3-year-old girl was later pronounced dead at Woodhull Medical Center. A 47-year-old man remained in critical condition on Monday night, a Police Department spokesman said.

Four other people, including two firefighters, suffered injuries, a Fire Department spokesman said, but they were not considered life-threatening. The entire block on Putnam Avenue, in a residential corner of Bushwick, remained blocked off to cars and pedestrians hours after the flames were extinguished.

No information was immediately available on the relationship between the victims, and their names were not released.