NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 5-alarm fire in Brooklyn that left one man dead and eight other people hurt, including two NYPD officers treated for smoke inhalation, has been ruled accidental, fire officials said.

The FDNY said electrical wiring of a neon light in front of a store sparked the early morning blaze, which broke out around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights.

More than 100 firefighters responded to the scene. When crews arrived, they found smoke pouring from the four-story building that has businesses on the ground floor and apartments above.

“We have heavy fire conditions in the hardware store on the first floor,” said FDNY Operations Chief John Sudnik. “Extremely heavy smoke throughout the building.”

Fire officials said supplies inside the hardware store made it harder to fight the blaze.

“Hardware stores are always very problematic for us because of the nature of hardware stores,” FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said.

Many rushed to the scene, including Desmond Nation, who owns the hardware store that was gutted by the flames.

“My father started the business, this is three generations of the family business,” he told CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported. “To see it go up in smoke like this, and I was just here a couple of hours ago, it’s a devastating loss.”

Police said a 46-year-old man found in the back of the building was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends and neighbors identified the man as Bassam Awad, nicknamed Sammy, owner of the Haifa Market next door to the hardware store, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

They said he lived with his family in an apartment in the building and tried to escape the blaze on the fire escape.

“They said he just tried to leave through the fire escape and then he went back up and they said he slipped,” family friend Edwin Barreto said.

Nation said Awad was a close friend.

“It’s always devastating when somebody loses a life, but especially somebody you know and see on a daily basis,” said Nation. “It’s heartbreaking. He’s a father and like I said, he was like a brother to all of us.”

Barreto said Awad made an impact on so many people in the neighborhood.

“It’s a shame that Sammy had to go,” he said. “They’ve been very good people all my life. It’s very hard. They’re beautiful people. I’m going to miss him.”

Three people were also taken to the hospital in critical condition and five others had minor injuries, including two NYPD officers who suffered smoke inhalation.

In all, about 30 people were displaced.


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