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Man Dies in Apartment Fire Weeks After Another Fatal Blaze on Same Floor

By  Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner | February 22, 2013 7:28am | Updated on February 22, 2013 9:51am

 A 78-year-old man died when a fire tore through the 12th floor of 51 Ross St., officials said.
A 78-year-old man died when a fire tore through the 12th floor of 51 Ross St., officials said.
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WILLIAMSBURG — A 78-year-old man was killed by a raging fire in his Ross Street apartment building Friday morning, just weeks after another blaze claimed the life of a bedridden 78-year-old woman who lived two doors away, officials said.

Friday's fire deeply rattled tenants who had only recently recovered from the January blaze that took the life of a neighbor.

"I hope there’s not going to be anymore fires," said 12th floor tenant Deborah Schwartz. "Everybody’s in shock and afraid. Just shock and panic. We've had a very difficult year.

"They were both very nice neighbors."

Firefighters who responded Friday to the 12th floor of 51 Ross St. at 3:17 a.m.  found the man dead inside his apartment, NYPD and FDNY officials said.

Neighbors said the man was always cheery and helpful, frequently offering to help carry groceries for other tenants and always willing to make small talk.

Just three weeks earlier, another blaze on the 12th floor of the building, just doors down from Friday's fire, killed 78-year-old Nelly Bermudez, a former teacher who still sewed pattern dresses for her grown daughter.

Officials determined Bermudez was killed by a fire ignited by a lit cigarette in her living room. Fire marshals are still determining the cause of Friday's fire, which erupted on the 12th floor of the 13 story building about 3:17 a.m. and was brought under control an hour later, an FDNY spokesman said.

Two other people suffered minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals, he added.

"It was scary," said 57-year-old Edward Irizarry, who lives on the same floor as the fire. "It's a tragic accident. It's a shame."

Smoke clogged the 12th floor hallway, covering walls that had just been repaired from the last fire, neighbors said.

"When we see smoke, we go into panic," said Schwartz who has lived there for about 25 years. "The smell is terrible."

Others said they were awoken by the shriek of smoke alarms as smoke seeped into their apartments.

"Our floor, everybody is in shock," Schwartz said. "We just went through this four weeks ago. Now, again. It's good that we stayed alive."