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Three killed in separate blazes across borough

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Shortly before noon on New Year's Day, firefighters responded to the first fatal Queens blaze of 2005 in which a Jamaica doctor leapt from a third-floor window after flames engulfed his Parson's Boulevard home. John Fotiades, 39, of 87-08 Parson's Blvd., died after sustaining severe head injuries when he jumped. And on Monday evening, a deadly apartment fire in Corona marked the beginning of a hectic 15-hour period for firefighters in western Queens. In addition to the Corona fire, which officials said was started by a 4-year-old who accidentally torched a dry Christmas tree, firefighters also responded to a fatal house fire shortly after midnight in Astoria and then to a four-alarm warehouse fire in Long Island City the following morning. Later on Tuesday Queens firefighters would be called to yet another four-alarm fire in southeast Queens."I'm pretty physically exhausted," said Firefighter Duncan Cooke, a member of Woodside-based Ladder 163, who was at all three western Queens fires. "My legs are almost trembling as I'm talking to you."Speaking outside Tuesday morning's Long Island City warehouse fire, Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters' Association said recent staffing cuts have damaged the deparment's ability to respond to so many fires. With fewer firefighters on the job it takes longer to get water on a fire and there is less backup to cover future fires if someone is injured, he said.In Monday's Corona apartment fire an unidentified man was found dead on the third floor of the Corona Avenue building ravaged by an evening blaze that started on the first floor as a 4-year-old played with a butane lighter he found next to a bone-dry Christmas tree, officials said. As in a mid-December apartment fire in Jackson Heights, fleeing residents left their doors open, speeding the flames' progress, officials said. A larger tragedy was averted when a quick-thinking neighbor handed three children and two dogs out a second-floor window to a police officer waiting below.Less than seven hours later, 60 firefighters were called to the scene of a fatal house fire inside a single-family home at 20-60 Hazen St. in Astoria where they found 67-year-old Carol Ann Cirone dead. Cirone's Hazen Street home became an inferno after a fire started in the kitchen and flames generated enough heat to melt metal shelves lining her back porch."I had just gone to bed and we heard a few pops," said neighbor Leo Cinquemani, who lives next door with his wife and three children, ages 5, 9 and 12. "You heard pop, pop, pop and my wife came to the window and the flames where just shooting out."In Long Island City, a Tuesday morning fire gutted a warehouse at the intersection of 27th Street and 47th Avenue. No one was hurt in the enormous four-alarm fire that took about two hours to bring under control, officials said. But the blaze left building owner Juddah Freedman, of Flatbush, wondering what to do next.Freedman said he bought the 7,500-square-foot warehouse with a wooden roof two years ago when he moved his nearly century-old, family-owned party-supply wholesale business from the Lower East Side to Long Island City."When I came to work, I saw the smoke and I thought 'that can't be my building," said Freedman, owner of the M.H. Dicker wholesale company, as he stood outside the warehouse in which he also rented space to an auto repair shop and a construction company. Fire officials were continuing to investigate the cause of the fire which was reported around 8 a.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Robert Sweeney."Thank God no one was hurt," Freedman said.Less than 12 hours later, a four-alarm fire tore through five homes on 218th Street in Cambria Heights, causing only minor injuries to firefighters, according to fire officials. Witnesses said the blaze stemmed from an electrical fire started by a man renovating his kitchen, then spread through the crawl space in the attics of three adjoining homes before being controlled by firefighters.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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