A 61-year-old man was found dead in an illegal cellar apartment after a fire ripped through a multi-family Queens home Wednesday morning, officials said.
FDNY responded to a fire around 4:30 a.m. at a residence on Befell Street in the Jamaica section of Queens. Firefighters fought heavy smoke to get into the cellar. Once there, they found and removed the man who was unconscious and badly burned.
After the FDNY extinguished the fire, the Department of Buildings did an inspection and noted an illegal apartment in the cellar, complete with a full kitchen, gas stove, and a bathroom. Due to the inspection and the discovery of the illegal apartment, a full vacate order was issued.
While the upper levels sustained damage, the most impacted area was the basement, unfortunately taking the life of the tenant. The cellar of the building sustained significant fire damage, with charred joists, and destroyed interior walls.
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"They discovered one victim at the cellar staircase. That victim was removed, EMS started to immediately provide treatment. Unfortunately, that victim succumbed to their injuries.
The owner of the building has been cited for the illegal cellar apartment, as well as an illegal backyard concrete structure that measured 8-foot by 15-foot attached to the main house, according to the DOB.
"Illegally converted living spaces can potentially pose a severe life safety hazard to the building occupants as well as neighbors and first responders. DOB strongly encourages our fellow New Yorkers who suspect there is an illegal conversation in a building to let us know about it by filing a 311 complaint," the department said in a statement.
The investigation into the cause and origin of the fire is underway.