Blaze destroys apartment at Queensbridge Houses

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The children’s mother, 28-year-old Monique Davis, was...

By Alex Ginsberg

Fire broke out in a first-floor apartment in the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City after two young children left unattended began playing with a cigarette lighter, the Fire Department said.

The children’s mother, 28-year-old Monique Davis, was arrested and charged with child endangerment, police said.

Seven people — not including any of the six who lived in the apartment — were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, said Battalion 45 Chief Brian White at the scene. Two firefighters sustained mild muscle strains, he said.

The blaze started at around 3:47 p.m. in a rear bedroom of apartment 1A at 41-08 Vernon Blvd., according to the Fire Department.

Doris Davis, a 59-year-old grandmother who lives in the two-bedroom apartment with her daughter and four grandchildren, said she was outside in the courtyard with Monique Davis when the oldest grandchild, 7-year-old Jaiquay, began to yell “Mommy!” from a window.

The next thing she knew, Monique was running from the six-story brick building with Jaiquay, his brother Deasure, 6, and twin sisters Jaiontay and Geannatay, 3.

Doris Davis said the two older children had been playing with a cigarette lighter.

Queensbridge Houses, with more than 3,000 apartments, is the largest public housing development in the United States. It spans six avenue blocks and two street blocks just north of the Queensboro Bridge.

The fire was under control by 4:22 p.m., the Fire Department said. As firefighters worked to return equipment to their trucks and engines, Monique Davis was escorted into a police car by officers.

She was later charged with four counts of child endangerment for leaving her children alone in the apartment.

Her boyfriend, Tyrone Johnson, who is the father of the four children, would not comment on the arrest.

The four Davis children were not hurt and were staying with a friend, their grandmother said. But she herself was unsure where she would spend the night. Davis, who is confined to a wheelchair and requires kidney dialysis, said she lost all her necessary medications in the fire.

Chief White said eight units responded to the fire, but fighting it was complicated by the poor placement of fire hydrants. The address of the building is Vernon Boulevard, but the structure is much closer to 10th Street, where the hydrant was located.

The only entrance to the building, however, was on the other side, facing into a courtyard in the middle of the block. So firefighters stretched their hoses about 600 feet, White said. Under normal circumstances, he said, it would be unusual to stretch more than 100 feet.

White said two people were trapped briefly on the second floor because heat and smoke made the stairway impassable. But the two were reasonably safe where they were and not seriously injured.

An hour and a half after the fire began, Davis was still sitting in her wheelchair in the courtyard alone.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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