A 43-year-old man died early Sunday morning in a Richmond Hill fire that the NYPD has classified as suspicious, police said.
Authorities said a 911 call came in at 2:35 a.m. for a fire in a residence near the corner of 115th Street and 95th Avenue.
Neighbor James Penfold, 48, said he was asleep at the time but the fire trucks woke him up.
“You could see smoke coming out from behind the building,” Penfold said.
He said he thought the building would be completely destroyed, but the fire department was able to put it out about 45 minutes later. In a statement sent out Sunday morning, the NYPD said the fire had been deemed suspicious.
When the fire was extinguished, officers found the man with severe burns to his body, police said.
The man’s name had not been released as of Sunday evening, but neighbors believed he might have lived in an apartment on the second floor with his wife and son.
Debra Singh, 54, said her grandson would play with the young boy that lived in the apartment.
“It’s always a shock whenever something like this happens right around the corner from you,” she said.
The fire scorched almost all of the roof and a large section of the second floor. A mini-mart connected to the building was safe enough that workers went in and out behind the police cordon.
Penfold said on the first floor, which was largely unharmed, were five garages in which he kept two collector’s cars and another person stored racecars. Someone else ran a sign-making business out of one of the garages, he said.
Penfold said his own cars only sustained slight water damage in the blaze.
He said the only other fire in the neighborhood that he remembered had occurred 10 years ago when someone was smoking in bed. He said given the amount of flames and the location where the fire started in the building, he was not surprised it was designated as suspicious.
“For the building to go up in that manner, it doesn’t make sense,” Penfold said.
Debris including charred furniture, clothes and a rug rested in front of the garages around midday.
“This is our neighborhood. It’s bad,” said neighbor Hem Raj Tohan, 62.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2013 Community News Group
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