Prince's Bay Fire Draws Massive FDNY Response; Smoke Billowing Into Sky - January 21, 2020

by Joseph Ostapiuk

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A raging, five-alarm fire ripped through a row of town houses in Huguenot, spreading from home to home in mere minutes and leaving dozens homeless Monday afternoon.

In a dramatic episode, residents stormed into one of the engulfed homes to carry out a disabled senior citizen, neighbors said.

Flames could be seen shooting from several of the homes on Rensselaer Avenue, and thick black smoke billowed overhead for miles.

The fire spread to an entire block of six attached homes; several appeared to be completely gutted. A total of about 30 people were displaced, the FDNY said.

Reported around 3 p.m., it took firefighters about two hours to bring it under control.

The affected homes were 819, 821, 823, 825, 827 and 829 Rensselaer.

The fire went to a fifth alarm, which indicates about 150 firefighters and numerous units were on the scene.

Ten non-life-threatening injuries to firefighters were reported, and one civilian suffered minor injuries, a Fire Department official said at the scene.


Several neighbors ran into one of the engulfed homes and carried down a disabled resident before tragedy could have struck.

“My son was inside the house and he said ‘Dad, the house [is] on fire across the street,’ " said Paul Oliveri, 54, who identified himself as a retired cop who lives in the community. “We saw all the black smoke.

“I come running outside, another guy comes running outside and we know that there’s a disabled woman that lives in that house” Oliveri continued.

He said he and the man, now joined by another neighbor, ran to the back of the home to rescue the woman.

“We ended up going into that house and carrying Terry, the disabled woman, down” he said. "We were gagging with the smoke. We had her down before the Fire Department came here.” Another resident on the block said one home was already engulfed in flames by the time he arrived -- then it quickly spread.

“One house was up, then another house was up, then another house was up,” the man said.

He said he saw flames shooting out of the side of one of the homes, which firefighters quickly attacked.

The blaze appears to be contained to one block of attached homes.

The inferno sent thick black plumes of smoke into the sky.

NYPD officers called a “level-one mobilization” as they helped direct traffic around the response and contain crowds.


Nancy Cook, who has lived across the street from the affected homes for 27 years, said her heart went out to the displaced families, calling their situation "a terrible tragedy.”

She said she wasn’t home when the blaze broke out, but returned to the community when she got a call from her husband.

City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) said on Twitter he plans to be setting up drop-off sites “if there are immediate needs for family members.”

Further information will be posted as it becomes available.

-- Jordan Hafizi contributed to this report.