Fire rips through Ozone Park bldg.

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The Fire Department is trying to figure out what started a three−alarm fire that destroyed an Ozone Park apartment building Monday evening, but tenants said the blaze began in a second−floor unit where there had been a loud argument the night before.

The fire erupted around 4 p.m. and started on the second floor of the three−story building, firefighters said. Although the fire severely damaged the dwelling, which has two two−bedroom apartments on each floor, only one firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Lynette Hernandez, 38, who lived on the third floor, escaped from her apartment with her son, Mason, 16, four pet birds and a pit bull, after her smoke detector went off.

“My son saw the fire from the back and I just automatically got on the phone and ran out,” she said, while relaxing with her pets at a deli down the block.

The injured firefighter was taken to Jamaica Hospital and released later in the night, while the tenants were taken to shelters, the FDNY said. Firefighters were still trying to determine the cause of the blaze as of press time Tuesday, but Hernandez and several of her neighbors said it started at an apartment where a feuding couple lived.

Hernandez said she heard a loud argument Sunday night between a man and a woman who lived in the unit where the fire started. She said she called the police when the arguments got loud.

“The boyfriend had been threatening the girlfriend. She was screaming his name,” Hernandez recalled.

Leroy Johnson, who lived next door to the apartment where the fire started, said he also witnessed the argument between the couple and said it got more ugly as the night went on.

“The [woman] was leaving in a taxi and the [man] was at the window shouting obscenities,” Johnson, 41, said.

The couple could not be reached for comment. Johnson’s roommate, Kahilid Boston, 28, said the man and the woman moved into the building about a year ago and would argue often with each other.

The woman had a baby and a toddler living with her, according to Boston.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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