A massive five-alarm fire rapidly ripped through a Hempstead apartment building late Sunday, leaving more than 70 residents homeless, and dozens of others suffering from smoke inhalation.
In total, approximately 70 people had to be evacuated, and about 30 people, including a Hempstead village police officer, were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation. A Baldwin fire fighter was also taken to the hospital and was treated for cardiac arrest.
Nobody was killed in the fire.
Scores of displaced residents sought shelter at Hempstead High School, which was used as a temporary shelter. The American Red Cross was assisting those displaced by the blaze. NICE busses were used to transport residents to the shelter.
“Emotions are running the gambit, people are obviously tired, afraid, it could be a traumatic experience,” said Sam Kille, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross. “They’re wondering what their apartments are like.”
“It’s not an easy situation,” he added.
Nassau County police said the fire erupted at 6:46 p.m. at 590 Fulton Avenue, an apartment building in the Village of Hempstead.
The fire likely originated from a kitchen oven inside a second-floor apartment and then spread throughout the apartment, causing extensive damage, police said. Flames then shot up to the apartment above, producing a large amount of smoke that caused the entire building to be evacuated.
Thirteen fire departments responded and more than 300 fire fighters fought the blaze.
Police said the fire doesn’t appear to be suspicious.
Outside the building on Monday, some tenants expressed frustration over not being allowed inside the building to grab their belongings. Others were still looking on in disbelief.
“I just don’t want to wait around outside all day,” said Larry Caruana, who lives in the building. “Everybody’s lives are upside down for a week.”
Kille, of the Red Cross, said 72 tenants stayed at the shelter overnight and were given food and a place to sleep.
Nurses were on site, as were mental health professionals who donated time to help the residents cope with the traumatic experience, Kille added.
The Red Cross is hopeful that it won’t have to use the shelter another night, Kille said. A large number of people may be allowed back into apartments that were spared from the blaze, he said. The department of social services will also be involved in assisting displaced residents.
He also gave credit to local business and nearby residents who donated their time and food to assist the homeless.
“Really an example of neighbors helping neighbors,” he said.
-With Kyle Kjellgren