Extra-Alarm Fire is Second Blaze in 3 Days in Bronx Apartment Building

CBS 2 - October 02, 2017

by CBS Local

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Intense flames ripped through the top floors of an apartment building in an extra-alarm fire in the Bronx Sunday afternoon.

The blaze was the second fire at the building within a period of three days.

Authorities responded to reports of a fire at 1486 Watson Ave. in the Soundview section just after 2:30 p.m.

The fire was raised to three and later to five alarms were called as the flames spread into the cockloft of the three-story building, according to the FDNY.

Crews continued to battle the blaze after over an hour. Video posted by the FDNY showed plumes of black and gray smoke billowing from the building.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses turned into emergency shelters for evacuated tenants while firefighters investigated what caused the blaze.

An extra-alarm fire also broke out in the very same building on Friday.

“You may know on Friday, there was a second alarm also in this building, on the top floor. Marshals determined the cause of that fire to be a VX cable connected to a ceiling fixture in the top floor apartment,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Many neighbors were shocked that a fire would happen again just two days afterward.

“I’m frustrated,” said evacuated resident Kenneth Cheeseboro. “It is not safe!”

As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, Cheeseboro and his family have lived in the building for 18 years. They also had to evacuate during the fire on Friday.

“Super comes in today banging, ‘Fire!’” Cheeseboro said. “I’m like: ‘Fire?!’ Like, ‘It’s happening again?!”

Building superintendent Hamza Basic said he got a frantic phone call about the flames.

“’Hamza, Hamza, fire!’ and I go every door knock at the door, ‘Fire!’” Basic said.

Tenants forced out by the smoky blaze could only watch in disbelief.

The Department of Buildings said its crews were sent to the Watson Avenue building on Friday after the earlier fire. The department said it issued a partial evacuation order to two apartments on the third floor due to fire damage to the roof, but other residents were allowed back in.

A Building Department spokesman said the department inspected the entire building after the Friday fire, and found no dangers that would require a full evacuation.

The Department of Buildings was called to the building again after the Sunday fire.

Amara Colon lives on the top floor where the fire started, and said considering the building’s management, something like this was going to happen.

“There’s a lot of neglect going on over here — a lot of neglect,” Colon told WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz. “The same people, this company here — you see that new building they got down the way — they made these buildings but they can’t fix this here. We got people here.”

The FDNY said no cause has been determined, but they are looking into electrical issues again.

Residents now have one question they want answered – what is going on with the electrical system?

Basic answered, “I don’t know, I’m not an electrician.” When asked if there was a problem with the electrical system in the building, “Not before, never.”

Nigro said the holes in the ceiling from the earlier fire made the fire on Sunday even worse.

“Fires feed on oxygen,” Nigro said. “When the building is opened up, it gets more fuel. It adds fuel to the fire.”

Ten firefighters suffered minor injuries in fighting the blaze Sunday, 1010 WINS reported. Nine were treated at the scene and one refused medical attention.

No one in the building was hurt. Some 50 families were displaced.

Cheeseboro and his family never want to move back in, ever.

“It could happen a third time and we might not be that lucky,” he said.

Firefighters spent hours dousing the flames, and part of the roof collapsed. They remained on the scene as of Sunday night along with the American Red Cross Greater New York.