5-alarm Fire Destroys Ozone Park, Queens Building; Leaves Families Homeless

7 Online - December 19, 2014

by Josh Einiger

OZONE PARK, N.Y. (WABC) -- A tough 5-alarm fire on 97th Street in Queens that started Thursday has been put out leaving several families homeless.

The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. between the top floor and the roof of an apartment building in Ozone Park containing 24 units, all of which were evacuated. According to the Red Cross, the organization has sheltered 11 families, a total of 27 adults and 16 children. The MTA transported all families to two local hotels.

The building owner's contractors were on the scene Friday morning, and have started cleaning and boarding up the area. Police will remain on the scene for site security.

Two-hundred firefighters struggled to contain the flames as the wind whipped them across the roof of the Ozone Park apartment building. Heavy smoke and flames poured from the building as firefighters worked on the roof to try to put it out. "The fire department was breaking the glass out on the first floor. It was a terrible moment; my mom and my sister were crying," a tenant said.

Water from the firefighters forced Edgar Baez, his wife, and their two children out of the home among the two dozen apartments firefighters evacuated.

"At this point I would imagine the entire building is unlivable," Baez said.

The blaze quickly reached a fifth alarm as fire fighters cut trenches in the roof to block the spread of the flames.

One resident was hospitalized along with one firefighter, both with minor injuries.

Residents are wondering if this was related to another fire call just three hours earlier, when Umme Habiba said her neighbor smelled smoke and called 911.

"She thought someone was cooking fire department came," a resident said.

"And they said nothing happened so they left and then at 4:20 or so the fire started," another tenant said.

The New York City Fire Department confirms it responded to a report of smoke in a fourth floor breaker box around one pm. Finding no smoke, the told the tenant to notify the super and call an electrician.

"It's tough, we will see how we'll make out, but at least we have the kids and we have each other. So that's all that matters," Baez said.