A battalion chief of the New York City Fire Department collapsed Sunday afternoon at the scene of a two-alarm fire on Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, a blaze that took more than 100 firefighters an hour to bring under control, fire officials said Monday.
The fire broke out around 3:20 p.m. Sunday in a florist shop at 53-36 Metropolitan Ave., said Firefighter Mike Prendergast, a department spokesman. Alturo DonMartin, the owner of Elbas Garden, said that a wooden deck abutting his two-story frame shop inexplicably caught fire, engulfing the rest of the building in less than an hour. It took a total of 25 fire companies and 106 firefighters to bring the blaze, which had spread to several nearby houses, under control, he said.
While firefighters were attempting to extinguish the fire, Chief George Eysser of the 35th Battalion in Brooklyn collapsed outside the building, fire officials said. Eysser, nearly a 40-year veteran of the department, was taken to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Queens, and was later transferred to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, the officials said.
The officials said Eysser had been suffering from pneumonia at the time of the fire and was being kept in the hospital for observation. Steve Osborne, a hospital spokesman, said Monday night that Eysser was in stable condition. One firefighter was also brought to Wyckoff Heights Hospital for a back injury that he suffered while fighting the fire, Prendergast, the department spokesman said.
The fire was reported around 3:20 p.m. Sunday when DonMartin, 32, who lives across the street from his flower shop, said he no sooner had arrived home than spotted smoke billowing from the back of his store. He then ran across the street, first checking on his nephew who lives in a rear apartment of the shop.
The officials said the fire companies arrived three minutes after the first of seven telephone calls was received by the department. Just one minute later, the fire companies radioed in a second-alarm, a call for additional help.
The blaze, which fire officials said was not suspicious, was brought under control in one hours time, they said. The two-story building, DonMartin said, was 90 percent gone, adding that an insurance adjuster was still determining the cost of the damage.
Although he has insurance on the floral shop, which he has owned for 1 1/2 years, and the apartments above, DonMartin said he had no insurance on the rear apartment where his nephew lived. For now, he said, his nephew will have to live with him in his house.
Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2001 Community News Group
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