Huge NYC Furniture Store Fire Injures 10 Firefighters


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MADISON J. GRAY
Associated Press

Updated: 01-05-2003 11:58:25 PM


NEW YORK (AP) -- A huge fire engulfed a furniture store and spread to a nearby liquor store and another small store Sunday as firefighters battled to control the flames. Ten firefighters and a civilian were injured, none seriously.

Three apartment buildings were evacuated as the fire spread over more than half a city block in the Bronx borough.

The blaze still burned more than nine hours after it started and was being fed by packing material and the furniture store's merchandise. About 225 firefighters were battling the blaze.

Employees and customers in the furniture store escaped safely, fire department Chief Frank Cruthers said. No one was inside the liquor store when the fire spread there. Another small store, possibly a furniture store annex, also caught fire.

Jennifer Cepeda, 15, who lives in one of the buildings evacuated, said residents initially were leaning out windows to watch the fire.

``Everyone was looking out of the building at the fire, thinking that it wouldn't spread,'' she said, ``and then it got bigger so we all rushed downstairs and left.''

Cepeda's grandmother was being treated for smoke inhalation. None of firefighters' injuries was deemed serious.

Furniture store manager Gina Endico, 24, said the fire started in the basement, possibly because of an electrical problem.

She said the store's lights went out around 1 p.m. and she called an electrician, who went to the basement to check on the outage. The electrician ran back shortly after and told everyone to clear out of the store because there were flames in the basement, she said.

Furniture store salesman David Escalante, 34, said he and a co-worker tried to put out the fire but were overwhelmed and had to scamper out. ``It turned all black,'' he said, ``and then the fire came toward me.''

The cause of the fire had not been identified, the fire department said.