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House fire leaves baby in critical

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A 16-month-old child remained in critical but stable condition at a Manhattan burn unit after she was rescued by her father from a two-alarm Astoria house fire last Thursday morning, hospital officials and family members said.

The two-alarm blaze was brought under control within 20 minutes after it was called into the Fire Department at 11:41 a.m., said Deputy Chief Patrick McNally on the scene. Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, he said.

An FDNY spokesman said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Flames rapidly engulfed the first floor of the two-story house at 23-79 26th St., shortly after the child’s grandmother discovered the fire in the garage, according to a family member who asked not to be identified. Prevented by flames from retrieving the girl from the first story of the house, the grandmother escaped the building with the child’s father, who then climbed into a window with a ladder to retrieve his daughter.

“He saved her life,” the family member said. “He went into the burning flames and smoke to get her out.”

Police officers transported the 16-month-old girl to Mt. Sinai Hospital of Queens before fire vehicles arrived, officials on the scene said. She was transferred to the burn unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center at 2:45 p.m., where hospital spokeswoman Tracy Hickenbottom said she was still listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday morning. She would not elaborate on what injuries the child suffered.

“The baby’s doing okay, doing as well as could be expected,” said the family member, who also would not reveal the child’s injuries. “She’s going to pull through because she’s a strong girl.”

The father was treated and released the same day at Mt. Sinai, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The house is owned by Stefonos Hasoulas, the child’s grandfather, who lived there with his wife, his son and daughter-in-law and the child.

Surveying the damage at the scene with fire officials, Hasoulas said he had stepped out earlier that morning to purchase groceries but returned to find the house engulfed in flames, at which point his family had already escaped.

The family member said the fire was caused by plumbers who had been fixing steam pipes in the garage earlier that morning.

“It was an accident,” she said. “They made a mistake.”

The workers later contacted the family and apologized for the incident, she said.

The fire primarily affected the first story with a minor extension to the second floor, McNally said. It did not reach an attached house that shared a wall with the burned home.

After the fire was brought under control, firefighters removed charred pieces of furniture from the first floor of the house and left them on the porch as they made “a more thorough search” of the premises, McNally said.

Along 26th Street, neighbors looked on in shock at the remains of the house while expressing concern for the father and his child.

“The whole block was full of smoke,” said Randy Zornberg of Long Island, who reported the fire using his cell phone when he saw smoke as he crossed the Triborough Bridge into Queens.

Marcella Cohen, who lives in a neighboring house, praised the firefighters for their rapid response.

“In a matter of 30 minutes, it had burned and they had put it out already,” she said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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