Fifteen Shops Affected in Flushing Fire

(Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Last June, a fire started on the roof of a two-story commercial building located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street in Flushing, paralyzing traffic for nearly an hour. Half a year later, on Jan. 25, a fire erupted again at the same corner. The four-alarm fire, which was sparked by stovetop blaze at a Chinese restaurant, led to the collapse of a wall. Fifteen nearby shops suffered damage in various degrees, and the traffic was affected for several hours. They will need to look for restoration service locations near them to see who can help restore the damage.

The fire broke out at the 7 Express, a Chinese restaurant located at 135-42 Roosevelt Ave. at about 2 p.m., and it quickly spread from the first floor kitchen to the second floor. By 2:30 p.m., the front door and the sign board of the restaurant had collapsed. The flames could be seen on the second floor, and thick dark smoke rapidly rose from the roof of the third floor. The walls between this restaurant and nearby shops had been damaged. Firefighters climbed up the ladder to inspect the situation and used a water hose to extinguish the fire. The back wall of the restaurant collapsed as well. By then, the fire had been upgraded from two-alarm to three-alarm, and then, an hour later, to a four-alarm.

The fire was finally under control by 4 p.m. when small flames were still visible. Firefighters kept working through 6 p.m. with as many as four water hoses. The fire, expanding along the ventilation system, destroyed 15 shops all together. “It was caused by the flames of the cooking oil in a wok,” said Joseph Woznica, assistant chief of the New York Fire Department, who worked at the scene. He said the fire broke out on the stove of the first floor kitchen and spread quickly via the ventilation system to the second floor, the roof, and the nearby shops. With 15 minutes, the fire had spread from Roosevelt Avenue to the shops on Main Street. Woznica said four ladders, 25 to 30 fire trucks and 175 firefighters rushed to the scene to help. And the 15 shops affected suffered damage in different degrees.

“In commercial districts, we normally see light fires that we can extinguish quickly. A fire as severe as this is rare. The shops in this district are aligned closely to one another, so it’s hard to put the fire under control in short time,” Woznica said. By 6 p.m., he said a few hours were still needed to completely extinguish the flames. Two firefighters were slightly injured and there were no civilian injuries or deaths.

Mr. Zheng, the owner of the 7 Express, remained at the scene during the afternoon of Jan. 25. He said the fire broke out from a burning wok and all employees were evacuated. The restaurant had been operating in Flushing for two years. Zheng said he didn’t immediately know the damage to his restaurant.

The intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street where the fire raged is the traffic hub in downtown Flushing. The fire led to a road block on Roosevelt Avenue from Main Street to Prince Street and on Main Street from 38 Avenue to 40 Road. The subway station of the 7 train was also closed. Buses whose routes included the affected streets were rerouted to College Point Boulevard or Northern Avenue. By press time on Jan. 25, traffic in the affected area was still not back to normal.

The 15 shops that were affected suffered altogether damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Among them, 7 Express and its next door neighbors, Elegant Hair Salon and Yee Mei Fong Bakery, were hardest hit. Mr. You, owner of the bakery, said his shop was completely destroyed. The facilities as well as the business loss amounted to at least $300,000.

“I saw the fire on the second floor at 2:05 p.m.,” said Mr. Zhang, owner of the nearby shop E Star Computers, who called 911. The back façade of the commercial building where E Star is located was severely damaged. Mr. Zhang said he saw a few dozens firefighters working to put off the fire at the back of this building. As for his company, Mr. Zhang said the employees were evacuated immediately after the fire broke out, and they also removed some valuable facilities. Only some wires and cables were damaged.

Council member Peter Koo, Assembly member Ron Kim and Elaine Fan, community liaison of City Comptroller Scott Stringer all came to the scene. Koo said the shops suffered big losses, and they have to reapply for their licenses and do thorough renovations after things settle down. He has contacted Department of Small Business Services and the Department of Health to ask these city agencies to try their best to help these shops.

Kim said that there was a fire at the same street corner just a few months ago. Two fires happening in half a year at the same location sounds a loud alarm to the community. He calls for the businesses and residents to pay more attention to fire prevention including checking and replacing unsafe facilities and making sure their smoke detectors work normally.


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