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Arson Unit Investigating Forest Hills Fires, Police Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 19, 2015 4:35pm
 Judith Harrison, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, said most of the recent fires in the area are suspicious.
Judith Harrison, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, said most of the recent fires in the area are suspicious.
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DNAinfo.com/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS —  Six of the seven recent fires that have ravaged Forest Hills buildings in recent weeks have been deemed suspicious, according to the 112th Precinct — prompting the local police to enlist the help of the NYPD's arson unit.

Deputy Inspector Judith Harrison, the commanding officer of the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, said the NYPD has gone on full alert following the four-week blitz of fires.

"We are taking it very seriously," Harrison said at a community council meeting Wednesday night. 

All the fires deemed by the precinct suspicious erupted at vacant buildings which were being renovated or under construction, Harrison added.

According to the precinct, the first fire erupted on Oct. 20 at the former Parkway Hospital, which has sat empty since it closed in 2008.

Since then, six more fires have broken out in the area:



Most of the fires were clustered in the area between Jewel and 65th avenues and between Queens Boulevard and the Grand Central Parkway, Harrison said.

Only one blaze erupted in a different section of the precinct, on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The homes appear to have different owners and different construction companies working on them, according to city documents. 

The fires at 68-60 112th St. and 108-43 66th Ave. — seven blocks from one another — were so severe that they spread to nearby homes. 

Only one of the fires broke out in an occupied apartment building — at 106-15 Queens Blvd. on Nov. 17 — and is not deemed to be suspicious, Harrison said.

The fire was electrical and was blamed on a faulty refrigerator, Harrison said. Two people were injured in that fire.

Harrison said the precinct is working with the FDNY and other investigative units such as the Arson and Explosion Squad, Detective Bureau and Crime Scene Unit. 

She also said that every unit at the precinct has been briefed on the fires and the area where most blazes occurred has been flooded with both uniformed and non-uniformed patrols.

“We are looking for people that look suspicious, we are looking for houses under construction and houses that are being renovated," she said. 

Officers have also been distributing flyers with fire safety tips.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents called by the precinct suspicious, but Harrison said that fire can be unpredictable. 

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt," she said. “It’s a fire and it’s hard to contain sometimes and you don’t know what’s going to happen."

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Wednesday at an unrelated press conference that the department continues to investigate the fires in Forest Hills. 

"It's under investigation, and we'll see," he said. "I think they should be concerned until we finish their investigation to find out."