Suspicious Fire Kills Man, Injures 2 In Crown Heights, Brooklyn

NY Daily News - December 09, 2011

by Erik Badia & Christina Boyle NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Firefighters struggled in cramped walk-up

A fatal fire tore through a Brooklyn apartment building Thursday morning, leaving one man dead and another injured, officials said.

The blaze broke out on the second floor of a three-story walk-up in Crown Heights about 4:30 a.m., and fire officials said they are treating it as suspicious.

Neighbors said the dead man, who has not yet been identified, was in his 50s, did not have any family and drank heavily.

Police said he had a roommate or visitor in his apartment at the time of the fire who was intoxicated. The injured man, 59, was taken to Kings County Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

Fire officials said the narrow hallways and cramped quarters in the Albany Ave. building made it difficult for firefighters to tackle the flames as they engulfed the second floor and spread to the upper level.

"We had heavy fire conditions when we arrived," FDNY Deputy Chief Stephen Moro said.

"We had a very difficult time maneuvering our hose lines and our personnel due to the construction of the building.

"The stairwells and the hallways were extremely narrow. We couldn't fit more than one person at a time up the stairs."

"It's suspicious," he added. "That's all I can say at this time."

A firefighter was injured and taken to Kings County Hospital for serious but non-life threatening injuries, Moro said.

A tenant who lives in the ground-floor apartment said she woke up when smoke filled her bedroom.

"I grabbed my daughter and we got out," Tessa Jean-Baptiste said.

"It was very bad, it was bright red with flames."

A neighbor who lives across the street said she heard the sound of glass breaking and several small explosions in the early morning.

She looked out her window to see the fire ravaging the building and called 911.

"When I heard the glass breaking I jumped up out of bed," said Vivian Johnson, 54.

"Flames were coming out the windows, out of the second floor windows.

We heard a lot of explosions, like 'bam, pop, pop,'" she added.

"It's so sad. We're going to say a prayer for him."

Scorched debris from the second-floor apartment, including charred pieces of wood, metal, furniture and a mattress, littered the sidewalk in front of the building Thursday morning.

The brick facade was black from the smoke and windows on the second and third floors were shattered.