New York Brush Fire Damages 5 Buildings

Updated: 04-09-2007 12:26:42 PM

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It was a frightening scene Sunday afternoon as a huge brush fire spread across a large area in the Staten Island community of Midland Beach.

Five homes were damaged -- two of them badly -- and several people had to be evacuated while hundreds of firefighters battled the flames in windy conditions.

No one died as a result of the fire, but there were some injuries. Fire officials reported five people were taken to a hospital, all for minor injuries. They included a police officer, three firefighters and one civilian.

The Fire Department of New York reported the flames were first reported at 1:55 p.m., and it took more than 250 firefighters to get it under control. About 10 homes were evacuated.

Witnesses said they saw the fire come across the open field, burning through the brush. But then they watched in horror as it caught one home on fire, spread to another home and threatened the entire neighborhood.

Amateur video taken from one house showed how dangerously close the fire came.

"Well, I kept filming until I realized the fire was growing pretty big and could actually be a potential danger," said witness Michael Khalikov.

Fire victim Ray Fletcher said he was inside watching the Yankees game when, all of the sudden, everything got dark. He thought it was a snow squall and went outside to look, but said he found, "The fire was all over the place.

"I was in my pajamas. I quickly got changed, and by that time I got outside, I couldn't even come out front to exit. I had to run through the back yards to come out," Fletcher said. "I figured, 'Is this how it's going to end? Is this how I'm going to die?'"

Fire officials said the proximity of the fire to the homes made it more difficult to fight.

"The fire was actually too close to a number of hydrants. We couldn't hook up to them because the fire was all around them. So, we were able to move further down," said Deputy Chief William Tanzosh.

Two homes on Seaver Avenue were severely damaged. Firefighters said they fortunately were both vacant. Three other homes received exterior damage.

Still, residents have plenty of damage to deal with, both to their homes and their cars. Some cars were completely destroyed.