A 5-alarm fire tore through multiple homes Friday afternoon in South Richmond Hill, taking the lives of three civilians and leaving five firefighters with minor injuries.
Two of the three deceased were found in 104-18 125th Street on Friday night, the FDNY told the Chronicle. By Saturday afternoon, the third was found in the same building, the FDNY said; the search is still ongoing. The NYPD told the Chronicle that the victims have yet to be identified, as of Monday afternoon.
The fire began at approximately 1:15 Friday afternoon, neighbors said. By 2:15, it had been declared a 2-alarm fire, and within less than an hour, it had been upped to 5-alarms. As the FDNY worked to calm the blaze on 125th Street between Liberty Avenue and 107th Avenue, neighbors stood on the sidewalk and sat on their stoops, watching in awe at the cloud of smoke.
Residents told the Chronicle that the block is a tight-knit community; that was clear as some comforted their neighbors; meanwhile, others walked up and down the block, handing out water bottles to firefighters and police officers.
As many as eight houses were affected by the fire, with three — 104-20, 104-18 and 104-16 — taking the lion’s share of the damage. Three homes across the street had their windows blown out; the two adjacent homes, 104-14 and 104-26, also suffered damages, Department of Buildings records show.
A fairly narrow street, many of the homes are quite close together, making it plausible for fire to spread across several of them. On top of that, Friday afternoon was particularly windy, which only made the fire bigger.
Though the FDNY press office said that the cause is not yet known, Rafena Santram, who lives in 104-16 and whose daughter was home when the fire began, said that a backyard propane tank was involved. Fortunately, Santram said, she has family in the area who she and her family can stay with in the meantime. Red Cross officers were on the scene by 4:30 p.m., working with residents to determine how best to assist them.
The Red Cross later said that it is assisting nine families — 29 adults and 13 children — affected by the fire.
"My heart goes out to the victims and loved ones of the devastating fatal fire in Richmond Hill. I pray for the swift recovery of those injured and thank our brave first responders for taking action to save lives," Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) tweeted Friday night. "We are working to assist the families impacted by this tragedy."
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
This story has been updated to include new information regarding the victims of the fire and the number of homes affected, as well as a comment from Speaker Adams.
This article previously misspelled Ms. Santram's name. It also misidentified which home she lives in. Both have since been corrected. We regret these errors.