A five-alarm fire burned through a row of businesses in Queens Friday night.
The fire broke out just after 6:30 p.m. on Vleigh Place in Kew Gardens. At least 14 stores were affected.
The fire was under control by Saturday morning, but firefighters were still on the scene. It is unclear how the fire started.
“Born and raised here, this was our whole life, and we just watched the whole block burn down,” a resident said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking.”
Firefighters said they arrived within three minutes after the first flames in the first storefront, but it was already too late to save it and 13 other businesses. A common roof is to blame for the fire’s rapid spread.
“Once the fire gets into these concealed spaces up above the roof, it’s almost impossible for us to put it out. We have to worry about the safety of our firefighters,” said Chief of Department James Leonard, FDNY.
The response grew to a fifth alarm as firefighters attacked the inferno defensively, from the outside disappearing within a thick cloud of black, choking smoke.
At least three FDNY members were hurt, but none of them seriously.
“Here we are, it’s a holiday weekend, and 14 people lose their business. Sometimes that’s lost in the excitement of the fire, but 14 people. Think about all these business owners, people who work in these stores, and even the impact on the neighborhood, for all these people who shop in these stores, that’s the real tragedy,” Leonard said.
On Saturday morning, the streets were salted to prevent ice from covering the road.