A four-alarm fire gutted an Astoria furniture store factory and warehouse early Wednesday morning, sending plumes of smoke into the air that were visible for miles away in Queens and Manhattan. There were no serious injuries.
It looks like a total loss, said Deputy Chief Terence Roche as firefighters continued to battle the blaze well into the day.
The blaze erupted at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday on the third and fourth stories of Gothic Cabinet Craft Inc., a wholesale-retail furniture factory and showroom on 1st Street and Astoria Boulevard. The fire progressed to the fourth alarm within two hours.
Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries, Roche said. The cause of the blaze was not known at presstime Wednesday morning.
The companies responding to the Astoria fire included Rescue 4 in Woodside, which lost seven men in the collapse of the World Trade Center. In total, 39 fire vehicles and 168 firefighters were on the scene.
The fire was fueled both by wood and chemicals used in the production of the furniture, Fire Department officials said.
A partial cave-in forced firefighters to withdraw from the building, although they continued to battle the blaze from a few feet away to protect themselves from the possibility of further collapse, making it more difficult for the water to reach the source of the fire, said Firefighter Robert Calise, a spokesman for the FDNY.
Their efforts were further complicated because most windows were impenetrably sealed with bricks, which hampered their attempts to pump water onto the fire, he said. The force of the water was so great it wiped paint off the side of the building.
Harbor units added to the offensive by pouring 200 gallons a minute into the building, which sits on the East River at the western edge of Astorias Two Coves neighborhood.
Heavy winds spread white and black clouds of smoke through the neighborhood, completely obscuring the view of Manhattan behind the factory across the East River.
Its like a smoke cloud over the area, said Juanita Brathwaite of the Astoria Houses Tenants Association. People with respiratory problems would be having a lot of difficulties.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown were on hand at the scene, where the mayor said steps would be taken to protect Astoria Houses residents from the dangers associated with the smoke.
Neighbors and employees from the furniture factory crowded outside the building ravaged by the fire, where workers said more than 200 people were employed.
The people that work there came into work unbeknownst to them that the place was on fire, Brathwaite said. Theyre just looking at it in sheer devastation that its burning.
Eustallo Lopez, a Brooklyn resident who had worked at Gothic Cabinet for 15 years, only learned about the fire when he stepped off his bus and encountered the smoke.
What can I do? he said. I dont know how long it will be until I get a job again.
Although the fire appeared to have spared the first two floors of the four-story structure, there is a lot of water being poured in there right now, so everything susceptible to water damage would be destroyed, said Calise.
Many residents were sorry to see the loss of a neighborhood store where they had gone to purchase furniture.
Its sad, because that furniture store has been there since I was young, said Sherry Roseborough. Thirty-two years Ive been here.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2001 Community News Group
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