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Fire Destroys Over 100 Homes in Flooded Queens Neighborhood

WNBC 4 - October 30, 2012

by Andrew Mach, NBC News

Updated at 1:35 p.m.: NEW YORK -- At least 80 homes were destroyed in the New York City borough of Queens in a six-alarm fire that raged overnight and into the daylight amid neck-deep floodwaters.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said firefighters contained the blaze at Breezy Point, Queens, by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, a full 12 hours after it was reported to the New York City Fire Department.

The fire erupted at the peak of the storm in a Zone A area, which the New York City Office of Emergency Management declared to be the highest risk of flooding from Superstorm Sandy's surge. FDNY spokesperson Michael Parrella told NBC News that nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene by 5 a.m. Tuesday, battling high winds that made the flames difficult to knock down.

"The winds were just devastating, blowing from one building to the next one," Bloomberg said.

With floodwater from the storm filling the street, firefighters had to use a boat to make rescues, the Associated Press reported. Fire department officials said about 25 people were trapped in the upstairs unit of one apartment, and the two-story home next door was ablaze and setting fire to the apartment's roof. Firefighters climbed an awning to rescue the trapped people and took them downstairs to a boat in the street.

The six-alarm blaze ravaged through several blocks and destroyed more than 80 buildings, Parrella said, but there were pockets still smoldering Tuesday morning.

City officials said it appeared most of the area was evacuated prior to the fire, and no serious injuries were reported, NBCNewYork.com reported.

New York State Assembly member Phillip Goldfeder, who represents the district that includes Breezy Point, said the small coastal area, which contains about 3,500 homes, sustained "immeasurable damage" from the storm.

Superstorm Sandy made landfall Monday evening on a destructive and deadly path across the Northeast.

"In Breezy Point, whatever is not flooded is on fire," Goldfeder told NBC News. "There are literally rows of older, bungalow-style houses, one on top of the other, and for a fire, this is the worst-case scenario. The strong winds were spreading and fanning the flames at the same time as the flooding."

"No one could respond for a while, and when they did, they did not have anywhere near close to the resources they needed," Goldfeder said, adding that three area volunteer fire departments were working alongside the FDNY through the night to contain the blaze. One firefighter sustained minor injuries and was transported to an area hospital, Parrella said.