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21 firefighters hurt in fire at Flushing apt. building

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The Fire Department said it took nearly 150 firefighters one hour to bring the blaze at 140-30 Ash Ave. under control. None of the tenants were injured, but 21 firefighters suffered minor injuries, all of whom were treated at the scene, said Jerard Allas, a department spokesman.

The officials said it appeared that the fire was ignited by a faulty power strip in a bedroom, spreading to the walls and the cockloft, the space between the ceiling and the roof. The officials said the fire was probably accidental.

Just after 5 p.m. Sunday, Robert Casper stepped into the hallway from his sixth-floor apartment in the 61-year-old building, locked his door and started for the elevator. Then he smelled smoke.

He turned around and spotted a young girl across from him standing in her apartment, swatting away the smoke with a hand towel.

"Do you have it under control?" Casper asked the girl. "Yes," she said. No sooner had she answered than "big blobs of black smoke" came tumbling down the hallway, said Casper, who locked his door, propped open the window and phoned the police.

"It was like a solid wall of black billowed smoke," he said. "You'd choke to death if you kept the door open. A very short time later - I have to hand it to them - the Fire Department arrived and cleared out the hallway, so that the smoke wasn't as bad as it was."

On Monday morning, a slight scent of sweet, if stale, smoke wafted down Ash Avenue, stirred by shifting winds. Though somewhat intact, windows closer to the center of the colonial-style apartment building were either hiked up or shattered. The two windows in the red-brick wall on one side of the building looked as if they had been colored in with a black pastel crayon. They were completely smashed.

Except for a coating of soot and a few holes poked in the ceiling, though, Casper's apartment incurred little damage, he said. Casper said he has been living in this apartment building "all his life" and he thought the fire could have been more ravaging had it not been for the building's being built in 1939.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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