NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man has been charged with arson and attempted murder, for allegedly setting fire to the Woodhaven, Queens house where he lived because the owners had kicked him out.
The extra-alarm fire ended up spreading down the block, and left eight people injured.READ MORE: Manhattan, Brooklyn Residents Sue City To Stop Permanent Outdoor Dining
Luis Lopez, 31, was also charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the Wednesday night fire, which also killed two dogs.
The four-alarm blaze broke out around 8:10 p.m. Wednesday on 90th Street near 91st Avenue in Woodhaven and quickly spread. Eight homes were damaged, and six residents – including two children – along with two firefighters were injured, officials said.
“The defendant is charged with setting a fire that could have killed numerous people and did take the lives of two dogs – all because the defendant was allegedly angry about being evicted from his apartment,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a news release. “Arson is a serious crime and the defendant now faces spending a considerable amount of time in prison.”
Prosecutors said Lopez was ordered to vacate the premises on Wednesday, and about 10 minutes later, the owner of the building and her boyfriend smelled smoke.
When the couple tried to get out of the basement apartment, the door was blocked from the other side, prosecutors said. They had to try to open the door several times before they finally succeeded and escaped, prosecutors said.
On their way out, the pair saw smoke and an orange glow in the first-floor bedroom where Lopez had lived, prosecutors said.
Many said they heard yelling in the street before they even realized what was happening.READ MORE: 'Phantom Of The Opera,' Broadway's Longest Running Show, Resumes Performances
“I just heard somebody screaming, and I come out and see what happened. And when I see the fire, I went back to the house and ripped down my doors, and that’s it,” said fire victim Douglas Hernandez.
“It was insane. Everyone was trying to calm me down. I couldn’t believe something like this would happen,” neighbor Bryan Rampersap said.
The homes were built in the 1930s and are separate structures but share a common attic, which firefighters said helped the smoke and flames spread even faster.
Families began sorting through the damage Thursday.
“I think I lost everything. Everything,” said victim Silvia Chavez. “I don’t have nothing.”
“Thank God we’re all OK,” said Diana Duran, another victim. “Material things can be replaced, but a life can’t.”
It took more than 150 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said given the length of the common area in the attic, the fire could have spread to 18 buildings.MORE NEWS: Rev. Jesse Jackson Celebrates 80th Birthday In Harlem
If convicted, Lopez could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.