Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Civics Plan Fund To Aid Fire Victimsby Michael Lanza - Queens Tribune

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Two civic groups are teaming up with the Queens chapter of the American Red Cross in a relief effort for families displaced by last Thursday’s devastating five-alarm fire in Woodhaven.

Photo caption: Many of the flags that line the block were spared from the blaze. The fire, fueled by high winds, engulfed 11 homes.

The Woodhaven Block Residents Organization and the Woodhaven Development Corp. will soon create a fund to assist the families, according to Katherine Mooney, a spokeswomann for City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).

“We’re waiting for a full assessment from the Red Cross before we act,” Mooney said. “But a call for contributions of some type will be made down the line when we know a little more specifically what is needed.”

Mooney said most of the nearly 30 residents displaced by the blaze are being housed by family and friends as they wait to salvage what remains of their homes. All of the houses were cordoned off while inspectors continue to assess their safety and structural integrity.

Queens Battalion Chief Sal Cassano said the fire spread quickly from a home on 96th Street near 91st Avenue at around 12:30 p.m. More than 200 firefighters descended on the blaze, which had already engulfed nearly half of the residential block as winds fanned the flames through 11 attached homes.

Dozens of fire engines were lined around the block, shrouded in an acrid haze as they struggled to contain the fire. Firefighters blasted homes with water from above and below for more than three hours as high winds fed and reignited the stubborn flames.

Photo caption: (t)A Captain with Glendale’s Ladder 135 watches over his subordinates after directing the men to douse a resurgent flame. (b) A firefighter stands by as others battle the flames from above.

“We had a lot of fire and it’s swirling,” Cassano said. “There was so much smoke when we got there. The wind made it very difficult. The firefighters who are here did a great job.”

Fire officials reported eight smoke-related injuries during the afternoon blaze, including two firefighters. No major injuries were reported.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, fire officials said.

For more information on helping those displaced by the fire, contact Crowley’s office at (212) 788-7381.