Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fire guts high-rise apartments

By Kevin Deutsch
kdeutsch@riverdalepress.com

A raging high-rise fire destroyed two apartments, burned two firefighters and left a family of three homeless at The Glenbriar building on Kappock Street last Saturday, firefighters said.
A candle burning at a teenage boy’s bedside in apartment 1014 somehow tipped over and set fire to his pillow about 3 a.m., firefighters said. Flames quickly enveloped his room, spread through the walls and blackened most every inch of the two adjoined 10th floor apartments.
The family has since found temporary housing, while only traces of their comfortable lifestyle remain in the apartments they called home for more than 10 years. Their movie-viewing room was scorched and their teenage son’s bedroom immolated, his bed frame twisted into a heap of molten metal and splintered wood. The living and dining rooms were charred beyond recognition, the fine furniture inside them reduced to rubble.
Some artifacts of everyday life survived: an empty, soot-covered birdcage; lightly charred family pictures of boys fishing together; a Beatles number 1 hits album covered in black dust; and a Godfather movie poster in a fire-tinged frame.
Two firefighters battling flames inside the apartments at 750 Kappock Street suffered minor burns. They were treated and released from an area hospital. None of the building’s residents were hurt.
Firefighter Fernando Camacho was among the first on the scene.
“The flames were roaring,” said Mr. Camacho. “They were blowing very intensely out the back window.”
Firefighters rushing up to the 10th floor found the long, narrow hallway full of black smoke.
“There was zero visibility,” Mr. Camacho said.
Moving by touch and instinct, the firefighters carried their folded houses toward the two burning apartments, unfurled them and doused the flames until they receded. Frightened residents wearing robes and nightgowns scrambled down the staircases to the front of the building,where they gazed up at exploding windows and billowing smoke.
The blaze caused smoke and water damage to at least one other apartment. The roof of the 10th floor hallway, once white as pearl, is now completely black from smoke damage. The hallway itself reeks of smoke and burned plastics.
“This was a bad one,” Mr. Camacho said.

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