Fire Rips Through Queens Apartment Building, Forcing 24 Families Out of Homes

A massive wind-whipped fire ripped through a Queens apartment building Thursday evening, causing subway delays on the A line during the evening rush and leaving several families homeless. 

The fire ate through the fourth-story roof of the building on 97th Street in Ozone Park, fanned by winds as 200 firefighters fought to get the flames under control.

The heavy smoke caused a temporary shutdown of the A subway line on adjacent Liberty Street during the evening.  

The FDNY says it first responded to reports of smoke coming from a breaker panel inside a fourth-floor apartment, more than three hours before the fire started. Firefighters shut down power to the unit and told the resident to have an electrician inspect the breaker panel. 

Firefighters were called back to the scene when the fire broke out later. While the origin and cause of the fire have not been determined, fire officials said the blaze started on the fourth floor. 

Now the biggest concern is for the residents in the 24 apartments who will not be able to go home Thursday night. 

Third-floor resident Edgar Baez said, "I asked the fire department how bad it was, and the guy tells me, 'Well, you have at least two swimming pools of water on your floor.'"

Baez, his wife and their two young children were planning to spend at least Thursday night at a neaby school shelter provided by the Red Cross. 

"It really strikes us very bad, right before Christmas," he said. "We'd just taken pictures of the decorations and the Christmas tree, and most likely at this point, we have nothing." 

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