April 6, 2021 By Christina Santucci
Firefighters were battling a massive blaze Tuesday afternoon that broke out in an apartment on the top floor of a six-story building in Jackson Heights.
The fire started inside an apartment located at 89-07 34th Ave. shortly after 1 p.m. By 4:45 p.m., it had been upgraded to a seven alarm — and a total of 46 units and about 400 firefighters and medics had responded to the scene.
Nine people, including five firefighters and four civilians, were hurt, and their injuries were all considered not life threatening, the Fire Department said at 4:45 p.m.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, who spoke at the scene, said that three firefighters were burned as they went inside the apartment. “Thankfully, the burns were not serious although they were taken to the hospital.”
The other two injured firefighters had suffered sprains and strains. Two civilians had suffered from smoke inhalation, and it was unclear how the other two people were hurt.
“That number of firefighters will certainly grow as many of our members have worked very hard throughout the afternoon,” Nigro said.
“When the units arrived, the door to the apartment was open. It was an advanced fire,” Nigro said.
The blaze quickly spread into the cockloft – the space between the roof and ceiling of the top floor. Nigro said firefighters had been spraying the fire with water from the inside and outside of the 133-unit building.
“This is very difficult, very taxing, and we are still operating here. We will be here for some time,” he said in a statement recorded at the scene.
Nigro said that the Red Cross and Salvation Army were at the scene to assist displaced residents. “There will be many, many families needing a place to stay tonight,” he said.
Andrew Sokolof-Diaz, the president of the 89th Street Tenants Unidos Association, called the fire “beyond devastating.”
“Everyone is just in shock. This is the last thing that working families need right now,” he said
The association includes residents of the building as well as 89-11 34th Avenue.
Sokolof-Diaz said that he was trying to connect residents who needed shelter and other assistance with the Red Cross.
“The fire is still ongoing,” he said, just after 4 p.m. “It looks like nobody is going back into the building any time soon to get their belongings.”
Nigro noted that the door to the apartment where the fire was believed to have begun was left open, which may have allowed the fire to spread.
“We have stressed over the years the seriousness of that – if you do unfortunately have a fire in your home or apartment – how important it is to close that door, because the fire spread out into the hallway,” Nigro said.
“What we see here is now a seventh alarm that could have possibly been avoided.”