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Squatters May Have Sparked 'Suspicious' Bushwick Fire That Injured 4: FDNY

By Gwynne Hogan | October 23, 2017 11:58am
 Fire officials believe the suspicious fire was started by squatters, police said.
Fire officials believe the suspicious fire was started by squatters, police said.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BUSHWICK — A "suspicious" fire that ripped through a vacant Halsey Street home Monday morning, injuring four people and spreading to the building next door, may have been sparked by squatters, officials said.

Nearly 140 firefighters battled the blaze that broke out in the vacant building at 1216 Halsey St., near WIlson Avenue, about 6:15 a.m., officials said.

Flames consumed the entire building before firefighters managed to bring it under control about 8:20 a.m., officials said.

Three firefighters and one civilian were treated for minor injuries, according to fire officials. 

Fire marshals will determine its cause, but officials believe a person started the fire.

"It's suspicious," said Battalion Chief Chris Joyce. "Somebody may have been squatting."

Investigators had not found evidence of an accelerant at the scene but could not locate a candle or faulty outlet that could have sparked the fire, he noted.

"I woke up with the smoke," said Leonida Vargas, 71, in Spanish, who lived two doors down from the blaze and fled his home early Monday morning, watching as flames consumed the building and the sky filled with smoke. 

The building had been boarded up and vacant for about five months, since the family who lived there for several generations sold it and moved out, he said.

Vargas, who has lived on Halsey Street since the 1990s, had noticed several squatters going in and out of the building.

"When [a] house is left abandoned, in go the crackheads," he said.

Starting in December, a company called Halsey Park LLC made a series of payments totaling $406,875 to the family that once lived there, records show.

Halsey Park LLC is owned by Shariar Hamapoud, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment Monday morning.