In less than half an hour Andrew Rothkin, Kim Jones and Duncan Pflaster lost the place they have called home for more than five years after a fire ripped through their Astoria apartment early Wednesday afternoon.
Pflaster, an administrative assistant and also a playwright and photographer, said he received a call from Jones at around 1 p.m. Wednesday telling him he needed to come home because as she was out running errands their 35th Street apartment had been engulfed in flames.
Their roommate, Rothkin, had been home alone and his space heater caught on fire, Pflaster said. Rothkin was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital with severe second- and third-degree burns and smoke inhalation, but was released Friday and will recuperate with his family in Baltimore.
According to the FDNY, a call for the fire was received at 10:48 a.m. and about 60 firefighters arrived at the two-story home with the fire at the rear of the first floor. The blaze was under control at 11:20 a.m. One firefighter sustained minor injuries.
“When I saw the mess, the state of everything, it was just this horrible sinking feeling. When I was allowed to go up and see, it was just terrible,” Pflaster said about what he saw once he got home.
According to Pflaster, the apartment is destroyed, and every window had to be broken by the FDNY. There are holes in the ceilings and walls, and Rothkin’s room was “gutted,” causing him to lose everything — even his cat, Pepper.
“I think I was in shock for a bit. A lot of it was strangely beautiful: holes in the ceiling give a lovely light,” Pflaster said. “There was a lot of just standing around not knowing how to even begin to clean up.”
Yet, even in these tough times a light has shone through the darkness for the three roommates from online fundraisers, started by friends, that have raised thousands in just one day.
Three separate accounts have been created on gofundme.com for Rothkin, Jones and Pflaster to help them recover from the fire and also raise enough money to sign a lease on a new apartment. In total the fundraisers have raised more than $25,000 since Friday.
“It is just wonderful. People have been so generous. People I haven’t seen in years, people I think didn’t really like me, everyone has done what they can,” Pflaster said. “It’s incredibly moving and I keep tearing up when I think of so many people who have helped out.”
Pflaster, who was able to recover some clothes and other items, is staying with friends in Astoria until he finds a new place. He also said he has had offers of furniture, clothes and gift cards.
When asked what he would tell all those who have been helping them out during this time, Pflater said, “Thank you so much. It’s been such a relief in this horrifying time. We all appreciate your support so much.”