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Corona apartment blaze kills one

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Fernando Ariaz, 40 of 96-18 Corona Ave was found dead on the third floor apartment of the building, according to police.The fire that destroyed the building left a dozen people homeless. But it could have been far more deadly had it not been for some quick thinking by one tenant, who tossed three children and two dogs out of a second-story window onto an awning and into the waiting arms of a police officer, according to witnesses.Lt. Louis Soviero, a 13-year veteran of the force who also serves as a volunteer firefighter in his home town of Massapequa, L.I., was on patrol a few blocks away from the apartment house at 96-18 Corona Ave. when he was flagged down by pedestrians and responded to what he thought was a fight. When he arrived, the building was engulfed in flames."There was smoke and flames coming out of the building and people looked like they were getting ready to jump," said Soviero. "I had them throw me a kid at a time and then I helped the adults down."Soviero was passed three children, aged 1, 4, and 13, as well as the family's two dogs by 18-year-old Carlos Yascaribay, who lived with the family."I just wanted to get everyone out," Yascaribay said. "I care about the kids, I feel proud of myself for saving these kids.""That kid saved my family," said Tito Narvaez while he clutched his 4-year-old son, Adrian.Andrea Narvaez, 13, was one of the children who was handed out of the window along with her brother Adrian, 4, and infant sister Diana. She said she was more frightened for her dogs than herself."I was scared, but there were two dogs up there, too," said Andrea. "They're at my uncle's house now."One woman who was on the third floor was taken to Elmhurst Hospital after she jumped from the building to escape the flames. Carlos Ferreira, who lives one block away saw the woman jump from the building. "They were telling her 'hold on, hold on' but she jumped and it looked like she got hurt badly," said Ferreira. "I don't know if I saw someone die tonight."According to fire officials on the scene the woman was listed in stable condition by Elmhurst Hospital. Chief Fire Marshal Louis Garcia said the fire was caused by a 4-year-old boy who found a lighter and was playing with it next to a dry Christmas tree and that residents leaving the building did not close doors behind them, creating a "flu-like effect" that helped spread the flames."The tree was dry and burst into flames," said Garcia. "The grandfather tried to move it, but when he did, it went up."Members of the American Red Cross were on the scene while the fire was still being put out, handing out new coats to the displaced families as well as helping make arrangements for housing.Six firefighters suffered non life-threatening injuries, according to fire officials.Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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