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Massive Elmhurst Blaze Severely Damages More Than 100 Apartments

By  Ben Fractenberg and Katie Honan | April 11, 2017 7:10pm | Updated on April 12, 2017 11:54am

ELMHURST — Close to a dozen firefighters were injured battling a massive blaze that severely damaged more than 100 apartments and caused the building's top floor to collapse Tuesday evening, according to the FDNY.

The fire broke out at around 6:25 p.m. in the the area between the roof and top floor of Martinique Plaza at 56-11 94th St., a block from the busy Queens Center Mall.

Firefighters were on scene three minutes later as the blaze spread to 10 apartments on the top floor, according to the FDNY's Chief of Department James Leonard

The quick response time helped stop the spread of the fire to the building's "B" wing, which saved around 60 apartments, officials said.

But approximately 112 apartments inside the "A" wing suffered extensive water damage as firefighters fought the five-alarm blaze, according to Leonard. The building's top floor also collapsed.

It took 200 firefighters from 44 units to knock the fire down around 10:45 p.m.

The injured firefighters were treated for minor injuries, and "miraculously" there were no civilian injuries, Leonard said.

"The tragedy here ... is that extensive damage to over 112 apartments," he said.

Fire officials also launched their new drone — which helps them get an aerial view of the fire to determine how best to fight it — for the second time, which Leonard said was "highly effective for our strategy and tactics."

Displaced residents were given temporary housing through the Red Cross and the Office of Emergency Management, he added.

The Red Cross turned P.S. 13 across the street from the fire as a temporary shelter. Tenants were set to have a meeting there Wednesday morning, Red Cross officials said.

Fire officials were escorting residents back into certain apartments for them to salvage what they could.

Mohsin, 28, who declined to give his last name, lived with his parents, brother and sister in a sixth floor apartment.

He said he and his family were home Tuesday evening when they saw smoke coming out of the ventilation. Moments later, firefighters banged on their door and told them to get out.

"The fire was there, but it was just smoke," he said. "The roof caught fire so fast."

He was allowed back into the apartment Wednesday morning, where he could save an empty suitcase, his mother's water-logged purse, and a new camera that was sealed in a bag. 

"Me and my family, we lost everything," he said, adding that the experience is similar to how he felt coming to the United States from Pakistan seven years ago.

"I'm just going to start over," he said. "Now that I lost everything, I know what courage is."

The cause of fire is under investigation.

Martinique Plaza, shortly after a five-alarm fire was knocked down on Tuesday, April 11. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)