Albertson fire displaces 20 people

The Long Island Rail Road suspended service on the Oyster Bay line because of a raging fire in Albertson, a spokeswoman said Friday night. Videojournalist: Paul Mazza (Jan. 24, 2014)

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About 20 people were forced into the cold Friday night when a fire ripped through an Albertson town house, causing the roof to collapse, authorities said.

The two-story building -- at the end of a row of town houses -- was unoccupied at the time of the 6:15 p.m. fire, said Michael Uttaro, assistant chief of the Nassau fire marshal's office.

Toward the end of the night, one firefighter was transported to a hospital with minor injuries, Uttaro said, but no one else was hurt.

Authorities hope to get the people who live in adjoining town houses back in their homes as soon as possible, but Uttaro said most of them would be displaced at least through the night. The American Red Cross was on scene to help those people, Uttaro said.

"We have our teams out there to insure that anyone who needs it will receive emergency housing, blankets, food, and money for food and clothing," said Michael de Vulpillieres, a spokesman for the Red Cross, adding that 14 units were affected. "It's obviously freezing cold outside and these are tough conditions to deal with, so we're there for those people."

About 150 firefighters from a dozen departments battled the blaze at 154 I.U. Willets Rd. The fire was contained at about 9 p.m., but Uttaro said firefighters would remain on scene throughout the night.

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"There were frozen hoses, frozen streets and frozen firefighters . . . but they did a tremendous job containing the fire to one unit," Uttaro said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Uttaro said the second floor and rear of the unit also collapsed in the blaze. One neighbor said she could see flames from her porch.

"Those flames were so high," said Virginia Starkes, 54. "They were through the roof of the building."

As the fire raged about half a block from the Albertson train station, the Long Island Rail Road suspended service on its Oyster Bay line, spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. One train was delayed about 80 minutes as the railroad worked to get bus service in place.

PSEG-Long Island cut the power to about 1,000 people in the area at the fire department's request, irritating some residents.

"I'm going to go home and try to start my generator," said Rick Zerriest, 31. "They better turn the power on soon because everybody's water pipes are going to freeze."

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