Blaze guts music bar in Flushing

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At least two firefighters suffered minor injuries and were taken to Northshore Hospital, Fire Department officials said. The officials said the department received only one call at 1:50 p.m., from the tenants of the building at 153-01 Northern Blvd., reporting the fire.

After efforts to fight the blaze with hose lines proved futile, Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci ordered all the firefighters out of the building and opted to drown it with water instead, the officials said.

The fire was brought under control about 12:27 a.m. Sunday, nearly 12 hours after it was reported, said firefighter John Jones, a department spokesman. The officials said the blaze, initally thought not to be serious by fire companies on the scene, was started when construction crews cut through an I-beam. The sparks from the incision most likely ignited the fire, the officials said.

Residents said the sallow-colored, two-story brick building used to be a bowling alley but more recently was converted into a karaoke bar. After a change in ownership, construction was begun on the second floor and was nearly complete before the fire occurred.

While the top floor was under renovation, the first floor was occupied by an auto parts store, an electronics store and a glass store, among others, all of which suffered heavy damage.

The Fire Department did not have an estimate on how much the damages from the fire might run.

For hours, heavy smoke gushed from the two-story building. Lt. Kevin Ganun said some 180 firefighters worked to calm the fire, which wedged itself between the two floors of the building. Renovations had left a void between the ceiling of the first floor and the ground of the second floor - the space where the fire had spread - making it difficult for firefighters to fight, the lieutenant said.

Tony Tesco, the owner of Tesco Hardware across the street from the fire, said the second floor had been under construction for more than a month.

"I saw them take out 10 20-foot containers of garbage," he said. "They just put new windows in yesterday (Friday)," he said, just before firefighters broke them to try to get inside the building.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m, Ganci ordered the firefighters out of the building, saying that he wanted "the fire to come to them." To that end, he ordered what is called a surround-and-drown means of attack, in which the firefighters try to extinguish the blaze without advancing into the building.

The Fire Department was able to contain the fire using three tower ladders - hook and ladders with buckets and a nozzle that shoots a stream of water - and one stang, a high-pressure nozzle mounted on a fire engine, the officials said.

By Monday evening, around 7 p.m., a lone crane sat in the middle of Northern Boulevard, sluggishly hoisting up a bulky, metal billboard off the roof of the building. The police cordoned off Northern Boulevard, between 153rd and 158th streets, forcing drivers to use side streets.

By Tuesday morning, most of the building had been taken apart by a wrecking crew and the scaffolding had been removed. Debris flaked off the front of the building, with forceful gusts of wind strewing it all over the street. The police had by then opened up a narrow, two-way path for cars to travel down Northern Boulevard.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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