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Fire leaves family homeless in boro

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While fire officials continued to investigate the cause, homeowner Edward Murphy said firefighters informed him a faulty oil heater or bad electrical wiring likely initiated the blaze. It was not believed to be suspicious in nature, according to the Fire Department.No injuries were reported in the blaze.Murphy said the fire started while he and his family were asleep. He was awakened by his teenage son, who first noticed smoke in his bedroom, and proceeded to wake the rest of the family. While the son escorted the mother outside, the elder Murphy then tried to extinguish the fire on his own."It didn't look that bad from outside, so I got a little garden hose and tried to put it out that way," he said, noting that once he discovered the source of the smoke, his disposition changed drastically. "Yeah, it was like p---ing on a bonfire." Firefighters arrived at 2:27 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the fire was extinguished.During the blaze about 20 neighbors rose from their beds to offer assistance to the distraught family, who are now staying at a relative's home in Howard Beach.At one point, Murphy estimated the maximum height of the flames to be 20 feet above the roof of his home, tearing a gaping hole anywhere between 12 and 20 feet in the middle of his roof.Broad Channel, a one-mile long peninsula just north of Rockaway Beach, contains a number of single-family homes rebuilt from what was once a community of fishing bungalows in the early 20th century. As a result, many of the homes were built close together, akin to row houses. Because the homes were constructed near the Broad Channel waterway, the area sees frequent high winds and a constant breeze, prospects that worried many onlookers while the fire was raging."It's windy here all the time," said one neighbor Monday. "A lot of people here are lucky that night was calm."Fire officials issued an "all-hands" fire alert, meaning all available companies were called to the scene. Throughout the night, officials said the disturbance drew 12 companies, totaling 60 firefighters. Volunteers also joined the battle."I thought someone was burning a woodstove," said a neighbor. "Then I woke up and saw the lights, and the huge flames and the smoke pouring out of the top of their house. They're really the nicest people. My heart goes out to them."Despite the occasional flare up, firefighters managed to contain the fire to the rear of the home in the kitchen, bedroom and boiler room. The rest of the house escaped the flames relatively unscathed.The Murphys are hoping to rebuild. In the meantime, the senior Murphy, a plumber, plans to move his family into a rental home. He said the fire was unfortunate but humbling. "If it wasn't for my son ...," he paused, searching for the right words. "It just makes you realize what's important. Yeah, we lost some stuff, but it's stuff you can replace." Reach reporter Scott Seiber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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