The call came in early Sunday at the senior housing complex in Plainview. Newsday TV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; James Carbone; Lou Minutoli for Newsday

A second person has died as a result of Sunday's devastating fire at a Town of Oyster Bay housing complex in Plainview, authorities said Monday.

Lynne Citron, 74, died Sunday at a hospital after suffering severe burns in the fire at the Harmon Shepherd Hill apartments on Central Park Road. Another resident, Theresa Casale, 84. died at the scene, Nassau police said. 

Police and fire officials responded at 5:07 a.m. to the fire in Building 107 of the senior housing complex after receiving a 911 call.

The 10-unit building was quickly evacuated, with seven other residents evaluated for injuries and smoke inhalation, according to the Nassau County Fire Marshal's office. Two people were taken to a hospital for further treatment, police said.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • One person died and another was in critical condition after fire swept through a senior housing complex in Plainview on Sunday morning.
  • The 10-unit building was quickly evacuated; seven others were taken to a hospital for evaluation, authorities said.
  • The Harmon Shepherd Hill apartments are operated by the Town of Oyster Bay, where officials said they are working to find accommodations for the displaced residents.

Thick smoke

Nibia Cipriano was in the unit next door to where the fire broke out. She awoke to police banging on her door and distant screams in the background.

“They were screaming for help,” said Cipriano, of some of the residents, adding that she couldn't see the face of the police officer who ushered her out of the apartment through the thick smoke.

“I couldn't see the staircase," she said, "that's how bad it was.”

Firefighters on Sunday morning work to extinguish the fire at a...

Firefighters on Sunday morning work to extinguish the fire at a Plainview senior housing complex. Credit: Lou Minutoli

Nassau County Assistant Fire Marshal James Hickman said firefighters arrived on scene in three minutes, finding flames piercing through the roof on the eastern edge of the building.

“We had fire venting from the second floor apartment,” added Plainview Fire Department Assistant Chief Andrew Cohen. “As we made entry, a second window let go. Heavy fire was coming out of both windows. We got people out of the first floor and got up onto the second floor.”

Hickman said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The housing complex is owned by the Town of Oyster Bay Housing Authority.

'Aggressive attack'

“[Firefighters] made a very aggressive attack and did an excellent job working the fire, suppressing the fire and holding the fire in place,” Hickman said. “They fought very difficult conditions to get in there and remove these people and hold the fire in check.”

Eight fire departments responded to the scene, Hickman said.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. investigators could be seen through a burned-out wall walking in the unit where the fire originated, a police K-9 sniffing for evidence. Police tape closed off the southern portion of the parking lot until about noon as onlookers were being advised to keep a distance from the building, where a burned-out mattress, vacuum and other charred furniture lined the snow-covered ground.

Christine Intindoli, a resident of the neighboring building at the complex, said she heard the commotion and walked outside to find the structure engulfed in flames.

Thick smoke billows up from a burning unit at a...

Thick smoke billows up from a burning unit at a senior housing complex in Plainview early Sunday. Credit: Lou Minutoli

“I was worried about my friends,” Intindoli said, calling the fire a “tragedy.”

Cipriano, who lives in a second floor unit with her son and a cat, which the family found safe and hiding inside the apartment seven hours after the fire, said residents of her building include people with breathing and heart problems.

Finding housing

Town of Oyster Bay public information officer Brian Nevin said about 20 residents were evacuated from the 10 units in the building and taken to a community room in the complex, where they were able to stay warm and have a meal. Those residents met with Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who briefed them on next steps, Nevin said.

The town's housing authority said early Sunday that about half of the evacuated residents might be allowed back into their units later in the day. As of  late Sunday, it was unclear whether any of those residents had returned.

Nevin said the remaining residents were in units closer to the fire that also sustained damage and they would likely be transported to area hotels until new accommodations could be made.

Nevin said the housing authority has about six other complexes where units could be made available for residents who can't return to their damaged apartments.

Inside the complex's community room, the displaced residents and some of their neighbors ate bagels and doughnuts, and later pizza, as they awaited further instruction from town officials. 

Ercolino Lombardi, 54, who lives in a first floor unit of the damaged building, clutched his 15-year-old French poodle, Paris, as he described the harrowing scene from just hours earlier.

"I have to credit the police department because they really got in there fast and got us to safety," he said.

Lombardi added it's not entirely uncommon for a smoke alarm to go off in the building, so he didn't think much of it when he first heard the alarm sound. Then he noticed the water on the ground.

"I got to the door and said, 'OK, we have to go,' " said Lombardi, who lives in the unit with his mother.

Shortly after noon, second-floor residents on the west side of the burned building were escorted into their units to grab medication, clothing and other essentials.

Housing authority officials told the group of residents that smoke and water damage was extensive throughout the entire building, with the floors on the ground level covered in more than an inch of water.

Nevin said residents are required to have their own fire insurance.

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