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FDNY battles two-alarm blaze in vacant Fort Tilden factory, squatters may be to blame: Councilwoman

Jun. 9, 2023 By Bill Parry

As the smog from the Canadian wildfires continued to move offshore overnight in the Rockaways, the FDNY had to battle an early morning blaze in Fort Tilden that belched prodigious amounts of smoke and blotted out the blue skies near the Riis Ferry Landing.

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The fire broke out in a vacant three-story factory at Rockaway Point Boulevard and Beach 169th Street just before 5 a.m. on June 9. The FDNY responded with more than 100 firefighters from 24 units that began to fill the parking lot in Roxbury, adjacent to the old factory near the base of the Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge that connects the Rockaways with Brooklyn.

Firefighters were ordered into an exterior operation as the fire progressed to a second alarm. Four hose lines and three tower ladders were deployed and succeeded in knocking down the main body of fire and bringing the inferno under control just before 7:20 a.m.

No firefighters were injured and FDNY fire marshals will determine the cause of the two-alarm blaze.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola did some investigating of her own and heard some troubling feedback from some of her Roxbury constituents.

“Fires don’t start themselves,” Ariola said. “The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, but there have been several reports of squatters making use of the building in the past, and I don’t think it is a stretch to connect the dots on this. I urge the National Parks Service and Parks Police to increase patrols in the area to keep an eye out for people seeking to squat in the abandoned buildings around the fort – especially during these busy summer months when so many people come to visit the park.”

She added that the two-alarm fire could have been far more damaging had it not been for the rapid response.

“I would like to thank the many members of the FDNY and local volunteers who responded to the fire and brought it under control quickly,” Ariola said. “Without their effort, this could have easily spread to the surrounding brush, and could have been a much worse situation.”

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell.

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