The incident happened at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning on 48th Ave in Elmhurst.
Officials say three people have died and four were injured, including two firefighters, in the overnight house fire.
Two bodies were recovered on the second floor and one on the third floor.
One of the firefighters injured fell through a first floor into the basement -- he's expected to be okay.
FDNY says two men were able evacuate the home before the fire spread. They were taken to Elmhurst Hospital for smoke inhalation and evaluation.
One neighbor said the home was occupied by squatters.
According to the NYC Department of Buildings, there were complaints earlier this year and in 2019 of dozens of people living inside the home.
Officials said eight people were known to live inside the foreclosed home. The two people who were presumed to be unaccounted for have been located; they were not home at the time of fire.
"Due to the large volume of fire, we had an extensive collapse of the roof into the top floor and another part collapsed on the second floor," one firefighter said.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards commented on the deadly fire via Twitter.
Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in this morning's tragic fire in #Elmhurst, as well as with the heroic @FDNY first responders who were hurt putting their lives on the line. Our office is monitoring the situation.https://t.co/4rpj1ybPWb— Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (@QnsBPRichards) December 19, 2020
During their investigation, officials found a partial vacate for the cellar where Dept. of Buildings previously found the illegal single room occupancy units.
"Illegal Conversions pose a severe fire hazard to not only building occupants, but neighbors and first responders as well, which is why we previously issued a Vacate Order for the cellar of this building and issued punitive violations to the landlord," NYC Dept. of Buildings said in a statement. "Our inspectors remain on scene, conducting a full investigation into this tragic fire."
Previously in February 2018, DOB issued a Vacate Order for the cellar of the home, after their inspectors found 6 illegally converted SRO units. This Vacate Order was still in effect at the time of the fire.
Since this time, DOB has issued multiple follow up violations to the building owner for failure to correct the violating conditions found during the February 2018 inspection. The violations have led to over $217,000 in associated penalties.
Department inspectors were most recently on scene at the house to conduct an inspection on 5/13/20. During this inspection, officials say they issued a violation to the property owner after observing that the front yard had been fully paved over, contrary to zoning regulations for the property.
"Since that time, we have not received any complaints at the building," the DOB said.
Investigators said the fire had caused severe damage, including a collapse of the roof and heavy damage to the staircases inside of the building. Neighboring buildings were also damaged in the fire and structural stability inspections on all three buildings are ongoing.
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