Plumber's torch blamed in Coram apartment fire

Flames shoot from an apartment compex at 24 Flames shoot from an apartment compex at 24 El Camino Ct. in Coram, as firefighters battle the blaze. (April 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Robert Garofalo

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A fire that ripped through a 16-unit apartment complex in Coram on Sunday was touched off by a plumber using a torch to repair a bathroom, town officials said Monday.

The Brookhaven fire marshal determined the cause of the fire at 24 El Camino Ct., which caused the roof to collapse and left as many as 40 people homeless, officials said. No injuries were reported.

Craig Cooper, a spokesman for the American Red Cross on Long Island, said the agency provided temporary housing at hotels for six of the 16 families. The other 10 families found places to stay on their own, he said.

All but two of the families received financial assistance for clothing and other personal items. The Red Cross also provided a disaster mental-health specialist for the families.

The air smelled of charred wood Monday as plumbing and heating crews inspected the fenced-off complex. Only a handful of cars occupied the parking lot.

Neighbor George Dempsey, 60, saw the events unfold while walking his dog.

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"It moved so fast," Dempsey said. "The roof collapsed in an hour. It was frightening."

With Nicholas Spangler

and Jennifer Barrios

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