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The fire broke out around noon in a two-family semi-attached house at 78-18 83rd St. near Forest Park, caused by sparks from overhead electric wires that arced out to a second-floor porch filled with combustible materials, according to the Fire Department. Witnesses said the fire spread in a matter of minutes to neighboring homes, with flames and smoke affecting a row of buildings from 78-12 to 78-22 83rd St.A full 40 Fire Department units with 160 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was contained by the mid-afternoon, authorities said.Amy Blond, a Queens College student whose family lived on the first floor of 78-18 83rd St., said she was getting ready to leave for work at a Rego Park video store when her mother saw flames coming from the second floor. Blond evacuated with her mother, father and sister."We just smelled smoke and the lights suddenly went off," Blond said. "We left the house and then the two houses (on each side) caught fire." She said the upstairs residents were not at home at the time.Her family had lived in the tidy red brick house for 20 years, Blond said. "My mom, she's pretty upset," she added.ConEdison spokesman Carl Lee said Saturday the fire was still being investigated by the agency."It could have been flames that were being transmitted by the wires," he said. "We're still trying to determine the cause." Although the ground wires were determined to be safe, the electric utility shut off power in a one-block radius around the immediate area until the early evening as a safety precaution.Domanica Scalici, whose house was one of the six damaged, stood on 82nd Street in a daze, surrounded by sympathetic neighbors."The pole started sprinkling and 10 minutes later, two houses were on fire," said Scalici, whose house was adjacent to the house where the blaze originated. "They say I have water damage. I have to go check."Families displaced by the fire and the power outage or overcome by the heavy smoke in the area were waiting in the basement of nearby Sacred Heart of Jesus church at 83-17 78th Ave. Other residents clustered on the streets and spoke in hushed tones of how easily their homes could be destroyed by similar circumstances."There's a transformer in front of my house," said Nancy Barca, who lives around the corner from the affected block. "It's scary, knowing that it's electrical. You only see this on TV."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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