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Contractor Arrested for Allegedly Starting Queens Apartment Fire with Torch

NY Daily News - April 14, 2017

by THOMAS TRACY JOHN ANNESE

A contractor's reckless use of a torch caused a massive Queens apartment building blaze that left two firefighters seriously injured and displaced 67 families, prosecutors said Thursday.

Declan McElhatton, 52, of Yonkers, was hired to fix the roof of an apartment building on 94th St. near 57th St. in Elmhurst, but his contract specified that he’d use materials “designed to be applied cold, without the use of heat,” according to a criminal complaint.

The apartment building caught fire Tuesday night, and firefighters battled the flames for four hours before bringing it under control.

The blaze quickly spread through the building’s cockloft between the upper ceiling and the roof, officials said. All 112 apartments were evacuated.

When the smoke cleared, two firefighters were taken to local hospitals with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Seven other firefighters suffered minor injuries, officials said. Firefighters managed to save half of the apartments.

When FDNY fire marshals inspected the roof, they found 18 rolls of black roofing material designed to be applied with a torch, as well as two propane tanks, one connected to a black rubber hose, prosecutors said.

Fire marshals arrested McElhatton and charged him with arson, reckless endangerment and a fire code violation.

He was arraigned Thursday and ordered held on $50,000 bond or $30,000 cash bail.

McElhatton’s lawyer, Matthew Galluzzo, declined comment Thursday.