29 Displaced after Fire Tears Through Bensonhurst Building

CBS 2 - February 16, 2020

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A three-alarm apartment fire erupted in Brooklyn early Saturday morning, leaving dozens of residents out in the cold.

Twenty-nine residents are now without a home after the devastating fire, which left charred remains of the large house.

Just after midnight, firefighters responded to fire alarms blaring through the residence on 85th Street near 20th Avenue in Bensonhurst.

They battled through thick black smoke to get in through the roof as flames shot out from a balcony around the side of the structure. Within minutes, the whole roof was ablaze.

“I was in my room, my bedroom. I smelled smoke. I came outside, I just looked through to see if something was happening,” neighbor Michelle Elliott-Smith said.

Residents watched from across the street in the freezing cold, some wrapped in blankets while others wrapped their arms around pets they were able save from the blaze.

“These types of buildings, they’re known for the fire trouble. There’s a lot of voids in these buildings. They’re very difficult, very punching operation when you have to just look for it. Because initially we had no fire showing, just heavy smoke. So we really had to look for it,” said FDNY Deputy Chief David Maj.

The stubborn flames shot into the sky as the FDNY shined flashlights through second-floor rooms, making sure no one was inside the structure, which is actually two attached buildings. More than two dozen people reside there.

One hundred and twenty five firefighters got everyone out safely. One firefighter suffered minor injuries.

“They performed admirably. They’re very punishing, cold conditions, as you see everyone’s got ice covering their helmets, so,” said Deputy Chief Maj. “They worked hard, the fire’s out, and everyone’s safe.”

FDNY Fire Marshals say the fire was caused by careless smoking.

The Red Cross says it helped 29 people from seven families with housing and financial assistance.

The Department of Buildings says inspectors found an illegal conversion in the attic, complete with illegal gas plumbing. Violations have been issued to the building owner.