Officials: Residents can't return to Albertson town houses

Fire tore through a town-house complex at 154

Fire tore through a town-house complex at 154 I.U. Willets Road in Albertson, displacing about 20 families. (Jan. 25, 2014) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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About 20 families displaced by a fire Friday night at a town-house complex in Albertson could not return home Saturday because of a lack of utilities and concern about the building's stability, authorities said.

Firefighters rescued two dogs from the burning complex and evacuated all residents from the property on the 150 block of I.U. Willets Road that houses 14 units in seven adjoining buildings. Two units were badly burned and sustained serious structural damage, while two other units had smoke and water damage, Albertson Fire Company firefighters said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, officials said.

The building's utility setup does not allow for electricity and gas to be turned on selectively in individual units, so even the undamaged units were closed to residents Saturday, firefighters said. Building inspectors were also investigating the complex to see whether the units that didn't burn were structurally sound.

Most displaced residents stayed with friends and relatives in the area while one received temporary housing from the Red Cross, officials said. Residents in two of the damaged units appeared to be out of town, firefighters said.

Authorities said they hoped to get people back in their homes as soon as possible.

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Some displaced residents were grateful to have escaped the blaze -- and lauded firefighters for rescuing the dogs, one a Labrador mix.

"I feel lucky and grateful that we all got out safely and no one was seriously hurt, including the cute doggies," said Maggie Donnelly, who said she lives in one of the evacuated units.

One firefighter slipped on ice during the blaze but was not seriously injured, firefighters said.

Firefighters said they were alerted to the blaze about 6:15 p.m. by a Nassau County police officer patrolling the area who saw the fire.

About 120 firefighters from 14 departments battled flames for more than two hours.

Frigid temperatures froze power lines, hose equipment and the pavement under their boots.

As the fire raged about half a block from the Albertson train station, the Long Island Rail Road temporarily suspended service on its Oyster Bay line so that firefighters could run hoses over the tracks. 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 departments' request; all customers except those in the town-house complex had their power back before midnight Friday, officials said.

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