Contractor Used Forbidden Torch and Propane on Wooden Roof Before Blaze: DA

DNA Info - April 15, 2017

by Katie Honan

ELMHURST — The contractor accused of ​setting a multi-alarm fire that displaced hundreds of residents used a torch and flammable materials on the apartment building's wooden roof — despite being told in his contract that materials had to be applied without heat, according to a criminal complaint.

Yonkers-based contractor Declan McElhatton, 53, was hired to repair the roof at Martinique Plaza at 56-11 94th St., and was told specifically in his contract signed April 3 that all materials on the roof should be used without heat, building construction manager George Panos told fire marshals.

Yet after the five-alarm fire on Tuesday night, investigators found a blow torch, two propane tanks and 18 rolls of black roofing material that needed heat to be applied.

It took more than 200 firefighters nearly four hours to put out the fire, which began at about 6:30 p.m., according to the FDNY.

Firefighters contained the blaze in only one wing of the building, but extensive water damage has made 112 apartments unlivable, displacing hundreds from the rent-controlled building.

The sixth-floor apartments suffered the most fire damage, with fire cracks visible on walls. The roof and wooden joists of the building are also "substantially damaged," according to the Department of Buildings.

McElhatton, who worked with Maintenance Asset Management, was arrested by fire marshals late Wednesday and arraigned Thursday for fourth-degree arson and second-degree reckless endangerment. He was also charged with violating a fire code, according to the DA.

His lawyer, Matthew Galluzzo, declined to comment.

He's due back in court on April 27.