Investigators suspect the massive three-alarm fire that caused the deaths of three people Saturday morning in a Queens house may have been intentionally set, sources tell News 4.
A fire marshal K9 found an accelerant at the scene of the house fire, two senior law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the investigation said.
Investigating marshals have also obtained video of a man entering and then exiting the building moments before the fire started, they said.
The FDNY reported three dead and at least two firefighters with minor injuries on the scene. The firefighters, along with two other injured civilians, were taken to local hospitals, FDNY Division Chief Stephen Russo said.
The call came in just after 5:30 a.m. for the fire in the three-story home on 48th Avenue in the Elmhurst section of Queens. By 7 a.m., the blaze had grown substantially, with at least 138 firefighters responding.
"Early on in the fire, we had a firefighter who - in the process of making access to the building - fall through a hole in the floor. He was very quickly self-evacuated from the building with minor injuries," Russo continued.
Two of the dead are believed to have been squatters in the supposedly vacant home; the city Buildings Department had a complaint on file earlier this year about dozens of people living there illegally.
The injured firefighters are expected to survive their wounds.
Investigators from the city's Department of Buildings found the building's roof had collapsed and staircases inside suffered extensive damage. Two neighboring buildings were also damaged by the fire, a DOB spokesperson confirmed.
A vacate order was issued to the building's owner in February 2018 for illegal conversions for single room occupancies. Subsequent follow-up violations for failing to correct the violation order led to over $217,000 in penalties, the spokesperson said.
Fire marshals have not yet determined the cause of the fire, although early signs point to the fire's origin on the building's first floor.