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PHOTOS: Inferno on Washington Avenue

Over 100 firefighters helped stop the blaze. Seven were sent to the hospital.

A four-alarm fire engulfed a Washington Avenue building early Saturday morning, which forced dozens of people out of their homes and sent seven firefighters to the hospital.

"I saw huge flames shooting out the back and the front," said Eastern Parkway resident Kriss Ramgettee as smoke billowed up the street from 816 Washington Ave., where the flames erupted just after 4:20 a.m.

The raging fire (click on the video for a vivid look at the flames) quickly moved from the third floor of the four-story building down to the deli below and then started spreading to surrounding homes and shops.

The building, which will likely have to be completely torn down for safety reasons, was mostly vacant and undergoing renovations, according to neighbors and fire officials at the scene. Residents said the building is often used by homeless people.

"I haven't seen one of these in a long time," said one FDNY chief about the size of the fire. It was not immediately clear what sparked the flames.

Over 100 firefighters flooded the area to douse the flames. Six firefighters were taken to Kings County Hospital with minor injuries, officials said.

Another firefighter was sent to the hospital after he was hit in the head by brick that crumbled down when a section of the burning building's wall collapsed on the St. Johns Place side just before 7 a.m. He was taken away on stretcher and was secured with a neck brace.

"The bricks just flew and knocked him out," one neighborhood resident said as fellow members of New York's Bravest rushed to help the downed firefighter.

Soraya Meer, owner of Coffee Bites, came by with two of her children to see the damage, but was not able to get a complete look inside as smoke continued to rise during the morning.

"It's a bit smoked and water damaged," said Meer, who used the opportunity to give her children a quick tutorial on fire safety.

"I think this is a lesson to my kids not to play with matches...and to call 911," she said.

This is the second blaze on the block in nine days. A 21-year-old woman died in a fire just across the street at 767 Washington Avenue on May 27.

starling rush June 05, 2011 at 07:01 AM
thank god no one was seriously hurt i live on the corner of Washington and eastern parkway and found it to be very strange to hear a helicopter overhead for more than a hour and a half.i knew it had to be serious because it seemed as though it was here to stay.as far as the fire goes with the changes of our neighborhood you can be sure that fire was no accident.that building has been standing strong since it was built.as i think back as a kid as well as a adult i remember 1 maybe 2 fires in that building when occupied by tenants and it was no where close to being as intense as it was with it now being condemned.
Amy Sara Clark June 05, 2011 at 10:58 AM
Lori, Thanks for the great photos! Amy
anna anderson June 05, 2011 at 12:50 PM
don't want to rush to judgement but my first thought is it looks suspicious.
Matthew in BK June 05, 2011 at 05:44 PM
What gets me are the reports that the FDNY was not called until 4.30 a.m. yet some residents claim they smelled smoke at 2 a.m. I thought the deli on the first floor and the bodega on the opposite corner were 24/7 businesses. Seems odd to me.
anon June 05, 2011 at 11:52 PM
suspicions are running through the neighborhood - apparently the landlord wanted the bodega and laundromat out so he could build condos.
Ekayani Chamberlin June 06, 2011 at 01:04 PM
That was my friends store on the corner! Calabar Imports up in smoke just like that. :(
Lori Heddinger June 06, 2011 at 01:55 PM
It's so sad to lose Calabar Imports. Such lovely mother and daughter owners and it was my go-to place for gifts.
billyj June 06, 2011 at 03:54 PM
According to Soraya, owner of Coffee Bites, both Calabar, the Boost Mobile shop, and Coffee Bites will be reopening as soon as the building is stabilized and repairs effected.

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