Fire in Controversial Homeless Shelter Sparked by Cigarette, Officials Say

By Emily Frost and Dan Rivoli  on August 28, 2012 12:37pm  | Updated on August 29, 2012 7:50am

UPPER WEST SIDE — A fire at a controversial West 95th Street homeless shelter that sent dozens of firefighters racing to the scene was sparked by a cigarette, officials said.

The blaze broke out on a mattress on the fourth floor of 316 W. 95th St., between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, just before 11 a.m. and was quickly doused by buidling's sprinkler system, the FDNY said.

Residents were evacuated for around 25 minutes from the building, a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel that courted controversy after the Department of Homeless Services announced it would be moving up to 400 homeless adults there and another building on the block.

The building and neighboring 330 W. 95th Street, also an SRO under the same ownership, was fined more than $45,000 by the Department of Buildings in past years for safety violations, including insufficient sprinklers. According to public records, the building has seven active buildings violations. 

The fire started in an apartment whose tenant was out, FDNY Lt. Marty Meaney said at the scene.

“It looks like it was started by a cigarette,” Meaney said. “The security guard said it was the second time [the tenant] did this.”

It was not clear if anyone was injured.

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