3 Dead, 4 Injured in Woodside Fire; Homeowner Cited For Illegal Conversion

Newsday - November 08, 2009

by DANIEL EDWARD ROSEN

An early morning fire Saturday in a Woodside basement apartment killed three people and critically injured four others, authorities said.

City officials immediately cited the homeowner for, among other things, an illegal conversion.

New York City firefighters responded to the blaze at 42-40 65th St. in Woodside at 2:50 a.m., according to fire department spokesman Jim Long.

He said two people in the basement apartment were declared dead at the scene. A third person was declared dead at Elmhurst Hospital Center after being found in cardiac arrest, authorities said. The identities of the deceased were not released by authorities Saturday afternoon.

Four tenants from other units in the building were seriously injured while trying to rescue those in the basement apartment, Long said. One, woman, was treated at the scene.

The others are being treated at a burn center in New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Long said the most critically injured is a man in his 50s with second and third degree burns to his face and upper extremities. The other two are men in their 30s with burns to their arms hands and faces. They in serious condition, Long said. The cause of the fire still is under investigation.

Shortly after the fire was under control Saturday morning, inspectors from the Department of Buildings issued citations to homeowner Subir Barua for illegal conversion from a two to five family house, work without a permit, illegal occupancy, and no secondary means of exit, according to a buildings department spokesman.

The basement of the home had been converted into living quarters and "there was construction that probably blocked means of egress," said Long.

Also, there were no smoke detectors in the basement. The detectors on the first and second floors had no batteries, Long said.

Records show the city objected to a previous homeowner's illegal conversion in 1990, but that complaint was resolved.

Twelve fire units and 60 fire personnel responded to the blaze. The was a small delay, Long said, after the address was first broadcast as 42-40 62nd St.

The error was quickly corrected, and responders reached the scene by 2:50 a.m., 4 minutes and 55 seconds after the first emergency call, Long said. The average response time for a structure in Queens is 4 minutes and 13 seconds, according to Long.