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Massive Jackson Heights Fire Not Suspicious, Source Says

By Katie Honan | April 23, 2014 8:59am
  The multi-alarm blaze has put out dozens of small businesses. 
Massive Jackson Heights Fire Not Suspicious, Source Says
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — Investigators do not think the massive fire that erupted Monday night inside the Bruson Building, injuring three and impacting dozens of businesses, is suspicious, a source told DNAinfo.

The fire erupted about 5:45 p.m. Monday, FDNY officials said, sending flames shooting out the third and fourth floor of the building and filling the neighborhood with smoke.

It was brought under control about 11:40 p.m., according to the FDNY, but firefighters continued to douse the back of the building with water until Tuesday evening. 

One person was taken to a nearby hospital in serious condition with smoke inhalation, FDNY officials said.

A firefighter was also treated for minor injuries and a child was taken to Elmhurst Hospital as a precaution after suffering from asthma, a source said.

Although the FDNY said Wednesday morning it is still investigating the cause of the blaze, a source told DNAinfo New York that investigators do not believe it's suspicious.

The source also said the fire originated on the third floor of the building, which housed Plaza College. The floor was packed with cardboard, paper and other combustible material, according to a source.

A spokeswoman for the college, Brittany Travis, said the school was on recess at the time of the fire and all other faculty and staff "were safely evacuated from the building."

On Tuesday, crews had begun the large-scale cleanup, boarding up windows and cleaning debris from 37th Avenue.

Councilman Danny Dromm said the fire was devastating for the community. The building housed about 50 small businesses and stores, including the college, the Queens Community House and the neighborhood's LGBT senior center.

"I have spoken to the business owners, many who I know personally, and the effect on their establishments is truly horrible," he said.

One of the small stores that lined the ground floor was Armondo's, a family-run Italian restaurant that sponsored fundraiser dinners for charities, according to its website.

The front door of the restaurant was blown out and water dripped down the side, but tables in the side sunroom were still set for dinner.

The street also includes Frank's Pharmacy, Everest Hair Salon and La Portena, an Argentinian steakhouse where Elmhurst resident Jessica Mery has been eating since she moved to Queens in 1980.

The restaurant is so beloved that her husband proposed there — and they even had their 2010 wedding reception inside the wood-lined walls.

"It made [the wedding] small, personal," she said.

Her husband, Rafael Battista, 43, said the loss of the restaurant is "rough."

"If they rebuild the building, I hope they come back," he said.