A fire early Sunday in Floral Park destroyed or severely damaged several businesses along Covert Avenue, plunging owners already struggling to recover during the coronavirus pandemic into further heartbreak.
It took firefighters more than four hours to bring the fire under control, said Nassau Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael Uttaro.
Twenty-three fire departments responded to the initial call at 6:32 a.m. of a fire at Park Place Restaurant, located at 41 Covert Ave.
Two firefighters from the New Hyde Park Fire Department were transported to a nearby hospital and treated for exhaustion and an elevated heart rate. An Elmont firefighter suffered exhaustion as well.
Six businesses sustained major damage or were destroyed, while 4 others were damaged by smoke, according to Uttaro. A private residence also had smoke damage.
The inferno devastated a busy and beloved hub that was central to the communities of Floral Park, Franklin Square, and Stewart Manor.
Paul Capoziello, who has owned Capo Ristorante with his wife Ingrid since 2009, said he had been trying to rebuild the business after revenues dried up during the coronavirus shutdown.
"It’s a hard pill to swallow. We went through COVID, helping the hospitals," he said Sunday. "…We’ll have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and rebuild."
Capoziello said his restaurant celebrated its 11th anniversary over the summer. Capo had changed its menu to attract new customers, adding lobster rolls during the summer.
"We were coming out of it really well at this point," he said.
Capoziello said he got a call early Sunday after the fire began ripping through the corridor. He was there by about 7 a.m. At first, his restaurant was "untouched." But the fire then "moved through the roof, once they opened up the roof to get oxygen there ... eventually it was engulfed."
He said other businesses nearby had to shut down as the pandemic took its toll.
"We’re all friendly," Capoziello said. "The restaurants work together in synchrony."
The Nassau County Fire Marshal Investigators office and the Nassau County Police Department's Arson and Bomb Squad units are investigating.
"The fire department was met with a well-advanced fire on arrival, and due to old construction, spread rapidly to the adjoining" sites, Uttaro said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran wrote on Twitter: "My heart breaks for the small businesses along Covert Avenue...that were devastated by today’s fire."
She thanked the county fire marshal service "and all of our brave volunteer fire departments and first responders across Nassau for coming together to bring the flames under control."
On Twitter, Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin described a "heartbreaking morning in Floral Park as many restaurant and shop owners along Covert Avenue found their businesses and livelihoods destroyed by a devastating fire."