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Fire in Jackson Heights destroys 8 businesses, displaces 100 people

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A four-alarm fire ravaged an entire block in Jackson Heights Saturday, destroying eight businesses and forcing the evacuation of about 100 residents, fire officials said.

Nearly 170 firefighters worked for 3 1/2 hours to extinguish the blaze that began at 9:53 a.m. Saturday morning in the Acme Furniture store at 84-09 37th Ave., officials said. Four firefighters sustained injuries and were treated at area hospitals, officials said. No civilians were hurt in the blaze, an FDNY spokesman said.

The fire, which sent plumes of smoke into the sky that could be seen from miles away, was under control by 1:30 p.m., according to an FDNY official.

“This is devastating,” said Debora Hughes, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. “Our neighborhood didn’t need this. This is a lot of loss. A lot of people are out of work now. That’s hard. That’s really hard.”

Hundreds of people spent their morning watching the fire consume the commercial businesses, including the furniture store, a liquor shop, a beauty parlor, a shoe repair store and a barbershop, residents said.

About 100 residents living in 54 apartment units at 35-43 84th St., a six-story brick residential building, were evacuated, according to fire officials and the building’s superintendent.

“I feel so bad for everyone,” said Grace Trent, who lives in an apartment building near the fire. “The guys who own the barbershop just opened it up about a year about. They’re very, very nice and hardworking people. They had made the place look so nice.”

Residents said many of the shops have been longtime fixtures in the neighborhood. E&B Colony Wines, at 84-01 37th Ave., had been in the area for about 50 years, according to Hugh Kelly, a resident who lives in the evacuated building.

“Colony is a family-run business there many, many years,” Kelly said.

Hughes said the fire was especially hurtful for residents after the popular Cavalier Restaurant, located just down the block from where the blaze was, closed last week.

“It’s like history is being erased from us,” said Hughes, adding her mother who recently died would get her nails done at the beauty parlor every Saturday.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said his office met with owners of the affected businesses Saturday and said the city Department of Small Business Services has arranged to give those affected by the fire “immediate assistance.”

Dromm also met with evacuated residents, many of whom have been able to return to their homes, to help secure “medical assistance for those in need, including seniors and the disabled, and make special arrangements for pets.”

State Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said his office was working closely with Dromm to “ensure that the businesses affected by today’s devastating fire receive the resources and assistance they need to recover and rebuild.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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