The six-alarm fire broke out in one home on Valentine Avenue just before 11:45 p.m. Thursday and quickly spread.
Nine homes, three of which were vacant, were damaged by flames, with five sustaining severe damage.
FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Edward Ferrier says the fire took advantage of the combustible construction in the wood-frame row homes and were pretty much devastated.
"Right now, the Department of Buildings is looking at it, possibly for demolition," he said. "Due to heavy volume of fire on arrival, it is under investigation by the fire marshals."
Several Red Cross teams are providing emergency assistance to those who are affected. Housing, food, water, blankets and clothing, as well as emotional and physical health support will be provided. A reception center has been provided for families at the local Salvation Army at 2121 Washington Ave.
The NYPD has closed East 181 Street between Ryer Avenue and Tiebout Avenue, and Valentine Avenue between East 180 Street and East 181 Street, to vehicular traffic.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. It took approximately three hours to get flames under control. Firefighters say that some of the buildings are so badly damaged that they may have to be demolished.