NY Post - December 10, 2004


A careless smoker is to blame for an early-morning blaze which swept through a high-rise Queens co-op building yesterday, injuring more than two dozen people including 19 firefighters, authorities said.

The blaze, which was reported to the FDNY at 1:30 a.m., occurred when a building resident fell asleep with a lit cigarette and ignited a mattress in a third-floor bedroom at the North Shore Towers — an exclusive gated residential complex on Grand Central Parkway South in Glen Oaks.

The three-alarm blaze quickly spread to the fourth-floor of the 33-story high-rise, where it was contained.

It took 138 firefighters more than an hour to bring the fire under control, said FDNY spokesman Tim Hinchey.

Seven residents and 18 firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Nine others were taken to area hospitals with more serious injuries — including one firefighter, who was rushed to Manhattan's Cornell Burn Center for carbon monoxide poisoning.

His injuries were not life threatening, officials said.

"It was very scary; I'm very lucky," said one elderly resident, who lives on the fifth floor. Firefighters had told her to stay inside the apartment during the fire, she said.