FDNY Releases Cause of 5-Alarm Fire at Huguenot Town Houses

silive.com - January 24, 2020

by Joseph Ostapiuk

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The cause of the five-alarm fire that tore through six Huguenot homes was determined to be accidental, according to the FDNY.

Jim Long, an FDNY spokesman, said that the fire began in a dryer vent that was not properly maintained at 827 Rensselaer Ave. The department added that a smoke alarm was not present in the building where the blaze began.

Long said that the homes, which city Department of Buildings (DOB) records indicate were constructed in 1983, are built to code, but that the “style of build can lend to a fast-advancing fire,” as it did on Monday.

“It’s a wood-frame house,” Long said, adding that “there’s certain voids” in the homes that contribute to making a fire difficult to contain.

A spokesman for DOB said Tuesday that stability inspections to the six homes had found extensive fire damage throughout, including partial roof collapse to several of the buildings.

Firefighters arrived on Rensselaer Avenue just before 3 p.m. on Monday 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.

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.

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.

The Carl V. Bini Memorial Fund and Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) have partnered in an online fundraiser to assist the families affected by the blaze.

“These families need us now more than ever,” said Massimo DiDonna, chairman and president of the Bini Fund. “Our mission as an organization is to provide assistance to Staten Islanders in a time of need, and right now there is no greater need than helping these families who’ve lost everything in this tragedy.”