Kew Gardens Hills Blaze Injures 10 Firefighters

TimesLedger.com - January 19, 2012

by Joe Anuta

A three-alarm fire gutted an apartment near Queens College Monday, injuring 10 firefighters who responded to the scene but were not seriously hurt.

The FDNY received a call at 5:21 p.m. of a fire in the second floor of a two-story apartment near the intersection of 152nd Street and Jewel Avenue in Kew Gardens Hills.

According to some of the city's Bravest on the scene, the blaze was caused by a candle.

Six fire trucks and two speciality units arrived to find flames blasting out of the windows of Mildred Brown's apartment in a cooperative complex called Georgetown Mews.

Brown, who had lived there for nine years, said she had put a candle near a curtain, which then caught fire.

When the flames spread, she ran to get her dog, Priscilla, out from under the bed.

"She was scared, but I convinced her to come," Brown said while wandering around the courtyards of the massive housing complex after the blaze.

Brown then left her apartment and banged on the apartment next door, but no one was home, she said.

She then ran down the stairs and banged on the doors of the two apartments there.

"I banged as hard as I could," she said.

One man, Mario Contreras, was visiting his daughter while on vacation and had to evacuate while she was out shopping.

By 6 p.m., a group of firefighters were inside the charred husk of the apartment, clearing the room of debris to ensure that the fire was out, according to Chief James Connelly, of Battalion 50.

The blaze caused smoke damage to the two units on either side and water damage in the apartment below, Connelly said.

All of the injuries sustained by firefighters were minor, he said. Some of those injuries occurred when they opened the door to the stairwell, which was engulfed in flames, he said. No residents were injured.

After the FDNY fought the blaze, police officers and the city's Bravest attempted to control the crowds of spectators who came out of their houses to watch.

Neighbor Steve Ferrara said he saw the blaze while he was driving home and parked across the street to run inside and call 911.

"You could feel the heat from inside the car," he said.

But the saving grace of the night was that no one was seriously hurt, according to Brown.

She said she would stay with a neighbor and then a friend. She was hopeful that her insurance would cover the damage..

The fire marshal was looking over the rubble to confirm the cause of the blaze.