Dozens Left Homeless By Concourse Village Fire

NY 1 - November 24, 2009

by Kristen Shaughnessy

Dozens of people have been forced out of their homes, after a fire swept through a row of houses in the Bronx late Sunday night. It took more than 200 firefighters around three hours to bring the fire under control along Findlay Avenue in Concourse Village.

The fire is believed to have started in a second-floor apartment at 1308 Findlay, before spreading to at least four adjoining homes. Fire officials say the structure of the houses helped the fire spread quickly.

"The space between the ceiling and the roof boards is called the cockloft; it's a common feature to these row frame buildings," explained FDNY Battalion Chief John Sullivan. "Once fire gets into the cockloft, it spreads very rapidly because the wood is very old and dry, and gaining access to the fire then becomes a problem, because you have to cut the roof, pull the ceilings, or a combination of both, and then get hand lines in a position to extinguish the fire. So you're really playing catch up as soon as you have the fire in the cockloft."

"As I went into my backyard, it was unbelievable. Flames were shooting everywhere. You could just see the flames," said neighbor Anita Webb. "It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced."

About 45 people, including 10 children, will likely need to find somewhere else to live.

"We just moved into this house and rented it about a month ago, so we going to start all over," said one resident. "But the most important thing is we are alive. We have to thank the good neighbors that woke us up. We would have been trapped in there."

"We are all shaking with cold. We don't have any clothes; everything is in there," said another. "I just need to check out the shop to pick up some dresses."

One man, who sources have identified as former New York Knicks player Dean Meminger Sr, was pulled from the apartment where the fire started and was taken to Jacobi Hospital with smoke inhalation. Meminger is also the father of NY1 Bronx reporter Dean Meminger.

Four firefighters also suffered minor injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Fire officials have not yet ruled out arson.