The acrid smell of smoke and fire and an ominous white haze permeated multiple residential blocks in Richmond Hill late last Thursday afternoon as firefighters battled a four-alarm blaze that gutted three homes and injured 16 people during some of the hottest temperatures of the summer.
The Fire Department received a call at 5:11 p.m. on Thursday, July 5, reporting a fire in an unattached residence at 107-47 112 St. in Richmond Hill. The blaze went to three alarms, with a fourth alarm called for relief efforts. The temperature was around 90 degrees at the time and the conditions were taxing on some of the responding firefighters requiring the department to trigger the fourth alarm to call in relief crews.
By 5:30 p.m., flames were shooting out of the front and back of the attic of the home as firefighters doused it with water. The fire spread to two adjacent semi-attached homes. At least three witnesses reported the fire had also spread to a large tree in the rear of the residence and may have jumped to the adjacent homes. The FDNY said 39 units and 168 firefighters responded to the fire.
It was brought under control about 90 minutes later and firefighters searched the three homes looking for any hot spots or potential victims.
More than 100 people, mostly residents of the block, crowded 112th Street and watched the FDNY fight the flames before officials forced people off the street around 6 p.m. Overhead, an NYPD helicopter circled while other news helicopters hovered high in the sky.
The incident resulted in the rerouting of two bus lines during rush hour.
All 16 injuries, including 13 firefighters and three civilians, were considered minor. At least five families are reported to be homeless as a result of the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but FDNY officials said they are focusing on a rear deck of the house where the fire started as the possible origin.