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College Point blaze injures nine firefighters

A sudden and explosive three-alarm blaze in the heart of College Point sent neighbors into the street and nine firefighters to the hospital just hours before they might have been marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The near-century-old frame building at 18-44 College Point Boulevard housed a cabinet shop on the first floor with apartments above.
At approximately 10:25 p.m. on Sunday, March 16 firefighters were summoned to the scene from an alarm box on the street. “It went up fast – we arrived just moments later and the building was roaring,” said a firefighter from a nearby command. “It was worse than a paint factory,” he said.
The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) dispatched additional equipment almost immediately due to the calls flooding in to the dispatcher. Within minutes, a battalion commander ordered a second alarm.
Firefighters inside the building were nearly trapped when the upper floors collapsed, but were able to escape when their brethren held off the flames with hoses, blasting an exit route for them.
With the collapse, a third alarm was issued and firefighters were withdrawn, to bring the inferno under control from outside.
In all, 138 firefighters and 33 pieces of equipment were required to combat the blaze. An official FDNY spokesperson confirmed that seven were taken to the Cornell burn unit with “non-life-threatening injuries” and two were taken to New York Hospital Queens.
The seven firefighters suffered first- and second-degree burns and were treated and released, according to Steve Humineski, an official of the Uniformed Firefighters’ Association. “Two of our members will require follow-up treatment, but thankfully, they’re okay,” he said.
Jeanette Acevedo lives and works next door to the destroyed building and felt lucky to still have a home and a job. “We were just sitting there and it was like an explosion,” she said, pointing to the gutted rear of the building. “There were sparks shooting out – it lit up the whole back yard,” she said.
“My husband and I just ran out into the street – no coat, no cell phone, no keys – you don’t stop to think, you just run,” she said.
“There was black smoke and the flames were blue and orange,” Acevedo recalled. “I guess they had too many combustibles in there,” speculated Acevedo’s husband, Michael Astenik. “We couldn’t go back inside until after 4 a.m.,” they agreed.
Inez Gonzalez, who manages Karlin Decorators on the ground floor at 18-46 College Point Boulevard surveyed the smoke and water damage and commiserated with Acevedo and Astenik, who live on the second floor.
“At least we still have a job,” Gonzalez said, to her co-worker and upstairs neighbor. “But look at my poor store,” she exclaimed.
An FDNY spokesperson declared that the investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing. However, the Department of Buildings has ordered the building vacated, and issued a summons for “Building vibrating/structural integrity affected.”
A veteran firefighter who had been at the scene observed, “I doubt that the fire marshals will go in there – it’s unsafe – the whole thing could come down on top of you.”
City records indicate that the building had been cited for boiler violations in the past – the last one, issued in January of 2006, was still open.

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