Police: Roofing contractors started Port Wash. fire

About 100 firefighters were battling a blaze that broke out Thursday afternoon in a commercial-residential building on Herbert Avenue near Main Street, prompting the evacuation of residents and businesses. Videojournalist: Howard Schnapp and Jim Staubitser (March 14, 2013)

Roofing contractors wielding a propane torch are being blamed for igniting Thursday's fire at a Port Washington building that gutted a cluster of businesses and left residents homeless, according to Nassau County police.

The police Arson / Bomb Squad said Friday that those contractors started the fire, which began in the walls of 1 Herbert Ave. at Main Street -- a residential and commercial building -- and quickly spread to the roof.

A police spokesman declined to disclose the name of the contractor.


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The blaze, reported about 1:20 p.m., burned through the day and then into the early evening, and despite the efforts of more than 100 firefighters from at least six departments, reignited at night, authorities have said.

The arson squad's investigation into the fire was unfinished, according to the spokesman.

It took hours for the firefighters, using 40 pieces of equipment from the departments, including Port Washington, Great Neck, Williston Park, New Hyde Park, Roslyn and Manhasset, to bring it under control.

The building suffered extensive damage, with the occupants of about 11 apartments and three businesses displaced, about 30 people.

The American Red Cross helped with temporary housing, police said.

A man who identified himself as a member of the family that owns the building and a colleague declined to comment. A man working with the owner said the owner's lawyer had instructed him not to talk to the news media.

Friday, workers swept away glass littering the street and boarded up windows of the businesses ravaged by the fire -- an AT&T cellphone store, the Japanese restaurant Yamaguchi and Steve's Barbershop.

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