By Jesse Lent
Special to DNAinfo
MORRIS PARK - Two firefighters were injured when a ceiling collapsed on them Saturday as they tackled a four-alarm fire in a row of five attached frame houses, authorities said.
The blaze broke out just after 1 p.m. at 726 Van Nest Ave. and raced through the cockloft -- a shallow attic that runs across the top of the dwellings, fire officials said.
FDNY trucks were on the scene within three minutes of receiving the call, a spokesman said, but the operation didn't begin soon enough for Ed Gomez, who lives in one of the buildings and found himself out on the street with a pair of cats and a few meager possessions.
"This [spread of fire] could have been prevented," Gomez said. "This truck was on the corner and they didn't use any water. If it happened two houses down, I wonder why they couldn't stop it."
But the blaze was so intense that it took more than 200 firefighters two hours to bring it under control, officials said.
At one stage, all FDNY personnel were evacuated from the buildings after a ceiling collapsed, injuring two firefighters. Sixteen other firefighters and two civilians were also injured during the operation.
None of the injuries was life-threatening, officials said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
"There was heavy fire on arrival," said FDNY Assistand Chief Ron Spadafora. "We're doing an investigation."
More than 10 families were made homeless by the fire, Spadafora said.
Gomez, whose wife and three children were out of the apartment when he was forced to evacuate, was sanguine about the loss of his home.
"I'll just make sure everyone is OK," he said. "I'll pick up the pieces later."