Two men were killed when their attempts to turn a Flatbush garage into a heated shelter turned horribly awry, officials said. Police believed that the still unidentified victims perished when the papers and rubbish they had lit to keep warm set the garage on fire. Firefighters responded to the garage, which is attached to the basement of a home on the 1600 block of East 21st Street, near Avenue P, at 5:40 p.m. on January 19 and put the blaze out within minutes. The fire, however, had already taken the victims lives. Autopsies were pending as this paper went to press. Officials described the two men as white, possibly Russian males, in their mid-forties to mid-fifties without permanent addresses. Police officials said that the victims were using the [garage] as a shelter from the elements. Sources from the 70th Precinct were hesitant to call the two men homeless, since they hadnt been identified by Monday afternoon. If they were homeless, they were traveling light, said one source close to the case. The garage was empty. All that was there was a little bit of rubbish they used to start a fire and a few bottles of beer. There was nothing in the garage that belonged to them. There was no evidence that they were planning to stay there for the night. Witnesses said that the man who owned the East 21st Street building, who neighbors identified as a doctor, was not at home when the fire broke out. A neighbor told The New York Post that she had seen at least one of the men hanging out in the garage a few days before the fire. Residents said at least one of the men had slept in the garage for the past few days as the weather grew colder. He was burning leaves to keep himself warm, the neighbor described. My mom talked to him because he was Russian -- and he told her he wanted to die.
©2007 Community News Group
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