NY Times - November 08, 2009by KAREEM FAHIM
Three people were killed and four were injured in a fire that started in the basement of an illegally subdivided house in Queens early Saturday morning, according to neighbors and Fire Department officials.
The police identified one of the men as Sd Jahan, 31. The names of the other two men were not immediately released. Neighbors said they were in their 30s and all of them were from Bangladesh. Two of the men died at the scene, and the third, who was in cardiac arrest when rescue workers arrived, died at Elmhurst Hospital Center. Three critically injured men were taken to the burn unit of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in Manhattan. A woman was treated at the scene.
Another man died on Saturday in a fire on the second floor of a boarding house in Brooklyn, the Fire Department said.
The Queens fire was under investigation, but officials said it started in the basement.
The second floor of the building was illegally divided into two units, and the basement was split into four bedrooms, officials said. On Saturday, the city's Department of Buildings issued violations for work performed without a permit, illegal occupancy and lack of a second exit. Firefighters were delayed from reaching the victims by an obstructed basement door, and they had to cut through bars on the basement windows, a fire official said.
According to city property records, the two-story wood-frame house, at 42-40 65th Street in Woodside, has been owned by Subir and Marina Barua since 1996. In 2004, city inspectors looked into a complaint about illegal conversions at the address, but found none when they visited and issued no violations.
According to Noyan Barua, who said he was a friend of the owners but not related to them, two of the dead men lived in the house and a third was visiting. Neighbors and relatives of the owners said the house operated as a cultural center - and possibly a boarding house - for members of Bangladesh's Buddhist minority. On the Web site of the World Barua Organization, which describes itself as "a nonpolitical, socio-cultural and welfare organization," Subir Barua is listed as the president of the executive committee and his address as the New York office.
A visitor at the hospital, Shaikat Barua, 26, said Subir Barua, who is in his 50s, was in critical condition with severe burns. Shaikat, who is not related to Subir, said that the organization held celebrations for Buddhist holidays and that its members were saving to build their own temple.
According to a neighbor who gave only his first name, Jeffrey, Subir Barua tried to rescue the men in the basement, but was pushed back by the flames.
Firefighters were initially sent to the wrong address, the Fire Department said. Jim Long, a department spokesman, said that a 911 operator took down the wrong street from a caller, but he said the mistake was corrected about two minutes after the firefighters were dispatched.
It was not immediately clear how much of a delay was caused. Though there is a firehouse just a few blocks from the scene of the blaze, Mr. Long said that firefighters took just under five minutes to get there. He noted that average response time in Queens was 4 minutes, 13 seconds. The mistake prompted a round of recriminations between the Fire Department and a union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which has complained about the city's new dispatch system.
The Brooklyn fire, which started at about 1:45 p.m., was in the Lewis Residence on Hale Avenue, a boarding house where six men live, according to Margeana Hurlock, who runs the residence.
The police identified the victim as Philip Salvadoni, 43. Two residents said they tried to free Mr. Salvadoni, but his bed was blocking the door.
Colin Moynihan, Rebecca White and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.