Today’s news:

Firefighter rescues woman from Woodhaven blaze

An unconscious woman was rescued Monday by a firefighter who crawled down a hallway filled with paper, clothes and old bills inside her burning Woodhaven apartment to reach her on the floor of the kitchen.

The victim, Mea Lin, was taken to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition, said Capt. Howard Sickles of EMS Battalion 45. Jamaica Hospital spokesman Ole Pederson said Lin was transferred to the New York Wiell Cornell Burn Center in Manhattan in the middle of the night in “extremely critical condition.”

Sickles said a firefighter, who remained unidentified, was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition with back and neck injuries sustained on the stairway of the building. A Fire Department spokesman said he had no record of the injured firefighter and that the injuries were most likely minor.

After an investigation, Fire Marshal Mike Smith said the blaze started in the kitchen and was caused by either food on the stove or an electrical problem. He said officials would not know the exact cause until Lin regains consciousness.

The fire started about 7:30 p.m. at 86-03 102nd St. in apartment 6B. “We just finished dinner and someone hit my intercom saying ‘Fire, fire,’” said Harvey Long, who lives in the building. “I grabbed my keys and grabbed my cat. When I got downstairs, there was fire flying out the window.”

A man who lives across the street said he called 911 after hearing a blast. “I heard an explosion and saw glass flying out the window and then flames,” said the neighbor who did not want to give his name.

When firefighters arrived, they had to contend with a car parked in front of the fire hydrant.

“We couldn’t find the hydrant,” said a firefighter from Engine 294. “We always look for the empty space.” When asked if the illegally parked car affected rescue efforts, the firefighter said “in getting water on the fire, you bet it did.” The car was ticketed by police.

While personnel from Engine Company 294 worked around the illegally parked car, firefighters from Ladder Company 143 made their way up to apartment 6B, officials said.

“I found the door and went into the hallway,” said Firefighter John Tepedino of Ladder 143. “The victim was lying in the kitchen area face-up and unconscious, and I dragged her out with Firefighter Jim Gnot.”

Lt. George Forest of Ladder 143 said Tepedino’s efforts gave Lin a chance to survive. “The fire was blowing out of the kitchen. He had to crawl through a long hallway and under the flames to get her out,” he said. “He saved her life.”

Tepedino’s rescue efforts were made more difficult by the messy condition of Lin’s apartment. “He had to crawl through a Collier’s mansion to get her out,” said Forest. “The place was loaded with junk,” added Chief Michael Borst of Battalion 51.

“The apartment was collecting a lot of garbage,” said Louis Gonzalez, the building’s super. “She had a lot of papers.” Gonzalez added that Lin, a 10-year resident of the building, also owned an apartment on the second floor that was in a similar state. Neighbors said they often saw the woman transporting papers between the two apartments.

A woman who identified herself as Claudia said she had talked to Lin that morning about computers. Despite being friendly with Lin for over a year, she said she had not been inside the woman’s apartment.

“She never answered her phone or door,” she said. “Once she goes into her space, she doesn’t open up to anyone.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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