Queens apartment fire that left 11 hurt ruled accidental

Matt Kozar reports
November 13, 2013 2:36:05 PM PST
The FDNY says a four-alarm fire in Queens that left eleven people injured and dozens out of their homes Tuesday night was accidental.

Investigators say the cause of the fire was electrical, sparked by a failure of structural wiring.

Eight firefighters were among the injured in the fire that ripped through an apartment complex.

The fire broke out at 84-70 129th Street, a seven-story residential building, in Kew Gardens around 7 p.m.

A dramatic rescue took place overnight, as firefighters rushed into a fourth-floor apartment to save an elderly couple huddled inside. The victims were pulled to safety.

Fortunately, many people used the fire escapes to get out of the burning building.

"My husband looked out of the window and he saw the flames shooting out of the apartment next door to us," said one woman, who told us she and her husband had no other choice but to come down the fire escape.

Still, the fire left dozens out in the cold.

"I opened the window and I see a whole bunch of smoke coming from the third floor," one resident said. "And I run downstairs to the third floor and click the door open, and all the smoke came out. I ran back upstairs, I saw that it was too heavy, and I rush my family and my animals out."

The intense flames were shooting out a third-floor window when firefighters arrived, and the fire quickly spread up the line of apartments to to top of the building.

Resident were forced to make a quick exit into the frigid night, some wearing only the clothes on their back.

"We were actually sleeping, and I just hear everyone knocking and saying fire, fire, get out," a resident said.

A New York Fire Department spokesman says 39 units and about 168 firefighters responded to the blaze.

"The members today did a fantastic job extinguishing four apartments of fire. This is a non-fire proof building. There's extensive collapse inside the building," said FDNY Deputy Chief Charles Clarke.

The fire was put under control at 9:15 p.m.

The Red Cross was on the scene to help those displaced get food and find shelter.

The injured were taken to Jamaica Hospital or North Shore Hospital. All are expected to survive.

12 apartments were badly damaged or destroyed because of the fire, one of them belonging to Mario Hernandez.

"The most important part is that everybody's okay, everybody's safe," he said.

Hernandez's apartment looks like it has a river running through it. Water is leaking from the floors above and there is debris everywhere. In the meantime, he says he's being put up in a hotel by the Red Cross.

"My house is lost, we've just got to keep moving forward, and I've just got to be there for my family, especially my mother because she's very devastated," he said.