Five-alarm fire in Astoria

November 22, 2008 5:55:57 PM PST
Firefighters battled a five-alarm fire in Astoria Saturday afternoon.The fire chief says the blaze happened at a cabinetry shop and building supply store located at 37-01 31st Street.

Investigators believe the fire started on the first floor, which made it difficult to get nearly a dozen people out.

As 200 firefighters scrambled to get the massive fire under control, a frightening and unexpected explosion and partial collapse complicated things.

Around 11:30 a.m., neighbors watched as firefighters battled the blaze and disappeared in the waves of thick black smoke.

"The wind and the cold and the wind chill is not helping," fire chief Patrick McNally said. "The guys are doing a great job, but it is a problem. We can see now ice is starting to form outside...It's going to be a long, drawn-out fight."

Winds relentlessly picked up and dumped smoke on firefighters as they rushed to rescue people from the five-story building.

Firefighters guided about 10 victims as they carefully crept backwards down a ladder. Many were quickly draped in blankets and pulled in for quick hugs, all relieved to be on solid ground.

Once everyone was safe, fire crews focused their attention on putting out the blaze before it could do anymore damage.

It took several hours to get the fire under control. Four or five firefighters were treated for minor injuries. Some were treated for smoke inhalation because of the overpowering smoke.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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