NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Merchants got a look Saturday at the full scope of the damage from an extra-alarm fire that burned up a strip mall in Queens.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, 14 businesses were destroyed in the fire on Vleigh Place at 77th Road in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens on Friday night. The following date, merchants were starting their plans for the long process of rebuilding.
“Everything is gone,” said Mike Hong.
Hong’s New Year was set to begin with accepting a horrible truth – Paragon Cleaners, which he owns, is no more.
Hong’s is one of the 14 businesses consumed in this inferno that started Friday around dinnertime and refused to die for most of the night.
Watching the strip mall burn from her apartment across the street was Sierra Berkel.
“It just immediately kept spreading,” Berkel said.
Berkel said it looked like the fire started in one of the businesses in the middle of the structure. At the time, most were closed for Sabbath in this predominantly Orthodox Jewish area.
“It was crazy,” she said. “It’s just spread across the whole block so quickly.”
Nearly 200 firefighters attacked the flames, bringing the fire under control after six long hours.
A total of three people injured — all of them firefighters. CBS2’s camera was there as one firefighter was wheeled to an ambulance.
CBS2 is told he and the two others will fully recover.
After firefighters left, Hong went into his charred and shaky store to get important papers. Moments later, police posted vacate orders — declaring every business in the structure condemned and off limits.
“I cannot go in,” Hong said. “I got to wait.”
There was so much economic loss. It was a time of sorrow and rebuilding for Hong and the owners of a restaurant, deli, pizza shop, convenience store, law office, barber shop and other businesses.
“Just to see all these businesses destroyed like that — it’s just sad,” said neighbor Yvonne Berkel.
The individual business share a long open space above the ceilings called a cockloft, where the fire quickly spread.
“It was up in the cockloft — that’s the area between the roof and the ceiling,” said FDNY Queens Borough Commissioner Edward Baggott. “These older buildings that are connected and undivided — there’s no fire stopping the fire quickly. It spread onto the roof and spread very quickly.”
Fire investigators said it could be several days before they know what caused the blaze.