Queens tenant charged with arson, attempted murder, in fire that swept through Woodhaven homes

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Stacey Sager caught up with some of the victims of Wednesday night's fire that swept through a row of homes in Woodhaven.

A Queens man faces attempted murder, arson and other charges for allegedly setting the fire that damaged a row of eight homes in Woodhaven Wednesday night.

Authorities say 31-year old Luis Lopez set fire to the house in which he lived because the owners had just ordered him to vacate the premises.

"The defendant is charged with setting a fire that could have killed numerous people and did take the lives of two dogs - all because the defendant was allegedly angry about being evicted from his apartment," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Lopez is charged with second-degree attempted murder, second-degree arson, aggravated cruelty to animals and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, Lopez faces up to 25 years in prison.

Brown said Lopez was told on Wednesday that he was to vacate the premises where he'd been living.

About ten minutes later, the owner and her boyfriend smelled smoke. When the couple attempted to get out of their basement apartment, the door was blocked from the other side, Brown said.

It took several attempts before the door opened and they fled. On the way out, the pair saw smoke and an orange glow emanating from the first floor bedroom where Lopez lived.

Trembling and struggling to get through the devastation they used to call home, residents on 90th Street in Woodhaven were heartbroken Thursday.

"I think about my family. But I also think about all the other families. There's like eight families that are displaced," said fire victim Jay Rojas.

Neighbors of the woman who lived in the home where it started had complained about drug use and the smell of marijuana for years.

But Thursday, that woman's sister had other accusations, against a man her sister asked to leave.

"The guy had locked the door," she said. "So, had it locked with something, and started the house on fire."

Residents do tell us they heard an argument there between the two.

"I heard her screaming, like, 'you're gonna go to hell for what you did,'", said fire victim Diane Duran.

Many there are trying to comprehend the loss that so far is unexplainable.

"You know they always say sometimes something bad has to happen for good to come," said Duran. "Like I said, you take things one day at a time."

The street where the four-alarm fire burned through a row of homes was still blocked off Thursday morning as officials investigated.

A total of eight homes were either destroyed or damaged by the fire, which broke out around 8:15 p.m. on 90th Street. The fire spread easily from house to house which are very close to each other.

"These buildings are very difficult as we know they're called row frames, they have this common attic area and they are known to spread the fire quickly," a firefighter said.

More than 140 firefighters responded to the scene. Eight people had minor injuries -- two firefighters and six civilians. All were taken to area hospitals.

"He had run into the house next door, the house that was on fire and got a girl out with her baby. They were the only people home because the house next door had caught on fire also. Right after I got off the phone with the police officers, we went and started to knock and people started coming out of the houses, had to get them out," said one resident.

He and others went door-to-door telling people to get out.

"I just take my dogs and that's it," his neighbor said.

The Red Cross provided blankets to residents standing outside in the cold, and are caring for 28 people, or about six families. Firefighters were putting out hotspots from the inside and standing on top of the roofs. The fire was fueled by blustery winds and old wooded construction, but its cause is unknown.

"They got two people out of a house through the roof and took them down the ladder," said the resident.

There was heavy smoke and traffic delays in area. People nearby should avoid the smoke and close their windows, the FDNY said.

Related Topics:
firehouse fireWoodhavenNew York City
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