Port Richmond Blaze Burns 2 Families Out of Their Home

SI Advance - November 15, 2011

by John M. Annese

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A kitchen fire in Port Richmond burned two families out of their home this afternoon and sent five firefighters to the hospital with minor injuries. The blaze broke out just after 3 p.m., at 41 Sharpe Ave. It started in a rear kitchen on the second floor, then spread to the attic, FDNY Deputy Chief Roger Sakowich said.

Miguel Alvarado, 32, was in his bedroom at the time. "When I went back there, I smelled all the smoke. It came right to my face," Alvarado said. Alvarado, a pizzeria worker, lives in the apartment with his parents, who weren't home at the time of the fire.

He ran outside, as did two people living in a downstairs apartment.

"I was outside, and I saw everything happen," said one of the downstairs apartment's occupants, Jose Mejia, 17, who described the scene as hellish.

"Basically, I didn't expect none of this to happen. It was a regular day," he said.

Mejia lives with his parents and eight siblings - they're temporarily staying at his sister's place, he said.

Water and ash dripped from the blackened ceiling of the second-story apartment, as firefighters tore through the walls to make sure no fire had escaped their hoses.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control at 3:39 p.m. Its cause remains under investigation.

In all, five firefighters went to Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton, with minor injuries, an FDNY spokesman said.

Rev. Terry Troia, the executive director of the non-profit Project Hospitality, described Mejia and his family as hard-working and active in the community, both through Project Hospitality and the Eye Openers Youth Against Violence Organization.

"This is one of the most community-minded and active families, part of the friendship dinner, the leadership council for Port Richmond, involved in anti-violence task force," she said.

-- Advance staff writer Deborah Young contributed to this report.