3 People Left Homeless After Williamsburg Apartment Fire

By Lindsay Armstrong on February 10, 2014 4:50pm 

 No injuries reported, but the fire caused severe damage to a second-floor apartment the FDNY said.
No injuries reported, but the fire caused severe damage to a second-floor apartment the FDNY said.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

WILLIAMSBURG — An elderly woman and two others were left temporarily homeless after a fire broke out in their Varet Street apartment building Monday morning, authorities and the owner said.

No one was injured, but the blazed caused severe damage to a second-floor apartment and a Caribbean produce store on the ground floor at 97 Varet St.

The fire started shortly before noon and was extinguished by 12:23 p.m., the FDNY said. 

The fire marshals are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but the building’s owner and tenants said it may have been electrical and appeared to start in the walls.

“There was a little smoke. I smelled it and I walked downstairs to check,” said Aida Rivera who lives in the third floor apartment. “I looked and the smoke was coming from the walls.”

The building received three complaints in the last ten years for defective or exposed electrical wiring according to the Department of Buildings records. Con Edison lodged the two most recent complaints in January 2011, reporting defective lighting and stray voltage. However, the buildings department closed all three complaints without issuing violations after inspecting the building according to records. 

Rivera said her apartment had some smoke damage but was in fair condition, while other tenants were not so lucky.

“The second floor is destroyed,” Rivera said. “The woman who lives there, she’s the one who really needs help right now.”

In addition, the Tropical Products store on the ground floor suffered severe water damage, according to building’s owner Dominick Dimartino.

Firefighters returned to the building about 1:20 p.m. after the owner reported seeing smoke coming from some areas of the building, but crews cleared the scene by about 1:40 p.m.

Dimartino said the building has been in his family since the 1950s. He hoped to have some the third-floor tenants back in to the building in 24 hours, but said the rest of the building would require long-term work.

“The second floor apartment is bad, he said. "It’s going to take a whole lot of work."

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