Twelve people, including seven firefighters, were injured after flames ripped through a row of stores on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside early on Thursday morning, it was reported.
Fire Department sources said the five-alarm inferno broke out at about 2:14 a.m. on Dec. 13 inside the New York Style Eats restaurant located at 45-02 Queens Blvd., near 45th Street. The flames rapidly spread to several adjacent businesses.
Firefighters arrived on the scene within four minutes of a 911 call about the fire, according to Assistant Chief Anthony DeVita. The FDNY determined that six businesses along Queens Boulevard were affected by the blaze; firefighters worked to prevent the flames from spreading to adjoining residential and commercial structures on 46th Street, DeVita said during a press conference at the scene.
The situation took a more frightening turn when a number of firefighters got caught in a violent backdraft — a blast of flames and heavy smoke.
An eyewitness filming the fire from the nearby 46th Street 7 train station caught the horrific blast on camera; whom the Fire Department credited John Joseph Ramos with taking the video (WARNING: Graphic content and language, viewer discretion is advised).
DeVita said that the backdraft is believed to have triggered a partial collapse within 45-02 Queens Blvd., allowing the flames to spread further through the adjoining businesses.
The FDNY reported that seven firefighters and five civilians were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the blaze, according to WABC-TV. One of the civilians was reported to be in serious condition.
Firefighters worked for nearly six hours to finally bring the blaze under control, at about 7:57 a.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Along with New York Style Eats, the damaged businesses include Sidetracks Restaurant, one of the neighborhood’s most popular eateries, Zen Yai Noodles & Coffee, The Romantic Depot and The UPS Store.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about the fire on Thursday morning and expressed relief that the firefighters caught in the backdraft weren’t seriously injured.
“The fire is out but several local businesses were badly damaged. Please use caution if you need to be in the area,” de Blasio wrote.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area, tweeted out an image of the charred buildings and expressed heartbreak over the incident.
“I’m on site of this devastating fire on Queens Boulevard in #Sunnyside,” Van Bramer said. “So many great businesses destroyed. Grateful that there was no loss of life. The @FDNY are amazing. Their bravery unparalleled. We will help all to rebuild.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris said he had reached out to a number of local agencies and offered his assistance in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“A number of firefighters and residents were injured during the incident. My thoughts are with them and their families in hopes of a speedy recovery. I thank them and the more than 200 FDNY members who responded for their bravery,” Gianaris said in a statement.
Three of the affected businesses — Sidetracks, New York Style Eats and The UPS Store — are members of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the chamber, said the business organization “stands ready to jump in and assist all affected businesses,” including offering relocation assistance.
“This morning, the thoughts of everyone at the Queens Chamber are with the firefighters and civilians injured in the fire that devastated several businesses in the Sunnyside neighborhood. We wish them all a speedy recovery,” Grech said. “We have been in communication with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and United States Small Business Administration (SBA) to connect impacted businesses to the support they will need to recover.”
The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District also expressed its sympathies to business owners and gratitude to the firefighters who fought the inferno.
“No words for our sadness this morning at the loss of these businesses,” the BID wrote in a Facebook post. “Thank you to the many, many people who have reached out to offer help and check in on our business owners and employees. We are in the process of organizing a community response to help the affected employees and will post information vsoon. #sunnyside #welovefirstresponders #sunnysidestrong”
Meanwhile, the 108th Precinct reported on Twitter that a portion of Queens Boulevard between 43rd and 48th streets remained closed as of 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 13 while the Fire Department continued to douse hot spots at the fire site.
This story was updated on Dec. 13 at 2:15 p.m.