FDNY Details How 5-Alarm Inferno Tore Through South Shore Homes

SILive - January 23, 2020

by Joseph Ostapiuk

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A five-alarm fire that displaced more than 30 people in Huguenot Monday afternoon is believed to have begun on the first floor of one of the homes destroyed in the blaze.

Firefighters arrived on Rensselaer Avenue just before 3 p.m. and encountered “heavy fire” coming from the buildings, according to John Sudnik, the FDNY chief of department, who addressed reporters just across the street from where the fire severely damaged six homes.

Firefighters believe the fire started on the first floor of 827 Rensselaer Ave. before quickly extending into the adjoining houses, Sudnik said.

In all, 819, 821, 823, 825, 827 and 829 Rensselaer Ave. all suffered damage as a result of the blaze.

While the exact cause of the fire is currently under investigation, Sudnik said the construction of the buildings contributed to the speed in which the fire spread through the roof areas of the homes.

There “is a lot of wood up there,” Sudnik said of the attics of the buildings, from which heavy smoke poured out into the evening.

Firefighters quickly worked to contain the blaze to the single set of six apartments, as it nearly spread to another set of homes during the initial FDNY response.

More than 200 firefighters and EMS workers were on the scene Monday afternoon. Ten firefighters suffered various minor injuries, and one civilian had a minor injury due to smoke inhalation.

Michael de Vulpillieres, communications officer for the American Red Cross, said the organization has connected with five of the six families displaced as a result of the fire and is working to reach the remaining family.

One family has accepted the organization’s offer of emergency housing, de Vulpillieres said, as other families were able to secure a place to live following the fire.

The Red Cross has multiple teams on the scene in Huguenot Monday night, de Vulpillieres said, and affected individuals can reach out to 1-877-272-7337.

DRAMATIC ACCOUNTS

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.

CONCERN FOR VICTIMS

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.

22-Year-Old Man Killed in Park Slope Blaze was FDNY Trainee New York Post

Rachel Green and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon

A 22-year-old man killed in an early-morning fire in Park Slope Wednesday was an aspiring firefighter who was biding his time delivering beer and soda while he waited for his chance to become a full-fledged Bravest, authorities and his family told The Post.

Steven Munoz, an FDNY trainee, was killed along with a woman, Destiny Marmolejo, 22, when flames engulfed a third-floor apartment at 155 5th Ave. around 2 a.m., police said.

Munoz had been living in the apartment, which belonged to his cousin, Andy Tavarez, 37, for about a year and a half, the dead man’s uncle said.

“He was a good kid, very hard-working,” Pedro Tavarez said. “He was the only child of his parents and he was waiting to find out if he passed his tests to become a fireman for the FDNY.”

Tavarez said his nephew was working at Brooklyn Beer and Soda while he waited to hear if he would make it onto the ranks of the fire department.

Munoz and Marmolejo were both found unconscious and unresponsive by firefighters responding to the two-alarm blaze. They were rushed to New York-Presbyterian Methodist Brooklyn Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.