Dozens Forced From Homes After Raging Bronx Fire

CBS 2 - November 24, 2009

by Magee Hickey

Sunday's Four-Alarm Blaze Leaves 45 People Homeless Just Days Before Thanksgiving

NEW YORK (CBS) - Officials say four firefighters sustained minor injuries and another person has been hospitalized for smoke inhalation at the site of a four-alarm fire in the Bronx that engulfed at least four houses.

The row of houses in the Bronx goes up in flames just before the holidays, but because there were no serious injuries, residents who lost everything are still grateful.

Residents in the houses on Findlay Avenue had been complaining for months about conditions there, and now 45 residents find themselves homeless just three days before Thanksgiving.

The building where the four-alarm fire started at 9:20 p.m. Sunday had numerous building code violations, most recently cited for creating a boarding house-type single-room occupancy which placed too many residents under one roof.

More than 200 firefighters struggled to put out the flames that raced through the shared cocklofts. A fire official said early Monday the blaze on Findlay Avenue was declared under control shortly after midnight, three hours after the first call.

Angie Ufomba and her husband Moses escaped the fire, with just the clothes they were sleeping in, after neighbors woke them up.

"They were all banging on the door, they woke us up," Angie Ufomba said. "Thank goodness for the neighbors. Thank God."

As building inspectors and fire marshals searched through what remained in the fire's aftermath, neighbors whose homes had been at least partially destroyed said Thanksgiving will have new meaning for them this year.

"I thank God for being alive," Angie Ufomba. "If not for him, we would have been consumed by fire."

"Every day I thank God," Moses Ufomba said. "I live a life of thanks-giving every day."

The Red Cross is providing temporary shelter for just three days, as fire marshals continue to search for the cause of the blaze.

Residents complained that the building lacked working smoke detectors, but the FDNY could not confirm that.