Illegal SRO Fire Kills 4

A deadly 2 alarm fire tore apart a 3 story frame dwelling in the Maspeth section of Queens Sunday night April 20, 1997. The 20x60 multiple dwelling's Certificate of Occupancy states that the building at 60-01 56 Rd. is a 2 family house, with a store on the first floor. Preliminary investigations show that the basement had been subdivided into multiple "single room occupancies" housing approximately 18 adults.

The fire had consumed much of the building by the time the first units arrived. So much so that an interior attack was quickly abandoned. Two of the seriously injured people were jumpers. About an hour into the incident, most of the firehad been knocked down except for the basement. It was then firefighters discovered 3 occupants buried in the rubble. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

With fire still burning in the basement, and the building's stability in question, the High Expansion foam unit was special called. The Haz-Mat unit also was assigned for fear that there was asbestos in the basement. Readings for the carcinogen proved negative.

After 4 hours of pumping water and foam into the building, with most of the fire extinguished, a de-watering unit had to be special called from Special Operations to pump out the basement. This was necessary to facilitate an exterior search of the basement.

The searches were painstakingly slow due to the fear of an imminent collapse of the gutted shell; which continued to burn into mid-Monday morning. A crane was brought in to help remove debris from the basement and that's when a 4th DOA was discovered; 23 hours and 30 minutes after the initial alarm.

The Department of Buildings will recommend demolition of the remaining structure when the basement has been thoroughly searched.

Fire marshals believe that the fire was accidental innature; caused by the landlord's tampering with the electrical service. He was amongst the dead found in the basement.

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