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The two-story house at 108-28 154th St. where James Clark, 49, lived was destroyed by the flames, but he and his family were able to escape without injuries, according to family members who lived on the same block. Primary searches of the house were hindered because one of the rooms was filled with items that prohibited firefighters from entering and looking for victims, the Fire Department said. Firefighters commonly refer to homes with excess clutter as a "Collyer," the surname of a legendary pair of pack rat brothers who lived in Harlem from 1920 to 1940 until their deaths, which were partially caused by their collection of junk. "Those types of fires are very dangerous," said an FDNY spokesman. "It's hard to work in those situations." The cause of the fire was not immediately made available by the FDNY.Three firefighters were taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica with minor injuries, but it was not clear what the injuries were, according to the FDNY. It was not known if searching the cluttered room was related to the injuries sustained by the firefighters, the FDNY said. Burned couches, tables, and many other unrecognizable items were piled up in front of the house once the fire had been extinguished. Clark's sister, Kathleen Clark, said she was unsure how many people lived in the house, but she was relieved everyone was safe."My brother has lost everything he owned. All he's left with are the clothes on his back," said Clark. "Thank God he is alive."According to the FDNY, the fire was reported at 8:25 a.m. and the first trucks were on the scene just three minutes later. The fire was extinguished more than a half an hour later, according to the FDNY. Clark's father, James Sr., lives across the street and said everything was normal when he left his house in the morning to go to the store, but he quickly realized that something was wrong when he returned."There was smoke coming from the house," said the elder Clark. "I saw fire trucks all over the street." Members of the American Red Cross were on the scene to help Clark and his family relocate and begin to get their lives back together. Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 173.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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