By Nathan Duke
A building worker was arrested last week on reckless endangerment charges after he allegedly caused a massive five-alarm blaze on the roof of a Bay Terrace apartment complex while using a torch, a spokesman for the city Fire Department said.
Firefighters battled the inferno for two hours July 7 amid the third day of a brutal summer heat wave that engulfed the five boroughs. A total of 13 firefighters were injured in the blaze, while three residents of the building suffered minor injuries, the FDNY spokesman said.
The cause of the fire was blamed on the illegal use of a torch by a worker on the building’s combustible roof, which was under maintenance, the spokesman said.
The worker, Victor Hidalgo, 48, of Flushing was arrested at the scene on reckless endangerment charges, according to a spokesman for the Police Department.
The fire broke out around 2:45 p.m. on the roof of the seven-story apartment building, which is located at 16-66 Bell Blvd. in Bay Terrace.
“They knocked on my door and when I opened it, the hall was filled with smoke,” said Mike D’Angelo, who lives on the seventh floor of the building.
D’Angelo said he went next door to make sure his elderly neighbors had made it safely out of the building.
Fire trucks raced down Bell Boulevard toward the fire, bringing hundreds of firefighters to the scene. Firefighters were forced to bust out of the window of the seventh-floor apartment where the blaze started, causing glass, ash, water and debris to rain down onto vehicles in the building’s parking lot.
Residents of the building peered out from their second- and third-floor balconies to watch the firefighters battle the blaze above them. The building’s top floors were evacuated, but numerous residents on the lower floors did not leave their apartments.
“I opened the door to my living room and it was all smokey,” said Mickey Kelly, who lives on the second floor. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was just relaxing watching TV.”
The building’s residents stood outside for hours watching as large plumes of smoke billowed from the site’s roof. Flames could be seen shooting up from the roof, while an alarm in one of the building’s apartments was set off during the blaze.
The Red Cross provided shelter for displaced families from the Bay Terrace fire at PS 184 at 163-15 21st Road in Flushing.
The fire was the second in the borough July 7 following a massive blaze in Rego Park that injured 17 firefighters.
Firefighters fought not only the inferno in Rego Park, but also the brutal 99-degree temperature and humidity that plagued the city last week.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.