More Than a Dozen Shops Destroyed in Quick-Moving Fire in Queens

"This was our whole life, and we just watched the whole block burn down," said one shop owner

Over a dozen businesses along a commercial strip of Queens have been destroyed in a massive fire. 

The blaze on Vleigh Place in Kew Gardens broke out at around 6 p.m. and quickly spread to nearby stores on the block, fire officials said. More than 175 firefighters were called to the scene. 

"This was our whole life, and we just watched the whole block burn down," said Barbara Hayes, an owner of one of the devastated shops.

The block includes a pizzeria, a law office, kosher food stores and others.

"It's just amazing something like this happened," said neighbor Bobby Bell. "You can't believe it." 

At least 14 businesses have been completely destroyed but there were no immediate reports of civilian injuries. It appears many of the stores in the heavily Jewish neighborhood had closed early for the Sabbath and were empty when the fire broke out. 

"There's nobody in there because it's the Jewish holiday. They closed early so nobody in the stores, thank God," said Edgar Steffens, an owner of a nearby business. 

Steffans said he's lucky his business survived. The other owners weren't as lucky.

"It's going to be a while before they're up and running, I think the whole block went down," he said. 

The huge operation to knock out the fire was still ongoing Friday night, and firefighters were expected to be on the scene well into Saturday.

Three firefighters were injured, and one is in serious condition, the FDNY says.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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