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West Hempstead fire leaves 3 injured, officials say

Firefighters at a fire in West Hempstead on

Firefighters at a fire in West Hempstead on Hempstead Turnpike on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Two people had to be rescued from their apartments Friday morning after a fire at a West Hempstead furniture store spread to the adjoining business and residences, authorities said.

More than 60 residents were displaced by the blaze. Three were treated at Nassau University Medical Center for minor smoke inhalation, authorities said.

Peter Lilli, the chief of the West Hempstead Fire Department, said the fire started at 10:44 a.m. in the basement of a furniture store and quickly moved to the first floor.

More than 75 firefighters from 15 departments responded to the scene.

“There was a lot to do when we got there,” Lilli said. “There was heavy fire and smoke coming from the furniture store and adjacent stores. People were hanging out of the windows.”

Lilli said two officers from the Nassau County Police Department rescued one resident using a ladder, and three firefighters used a ladder to rescue a second person trapped in an apartment above the furniture store.

Lilli said roughly 20 people were home at the time of the fire. Four businesses suffered fire damage; smoke could be found in every one of the 14 apartments surrounding the commercial strip.

Lilli said the Red Cross was still on the scene Friday evening, trying to notify some of the residents who did not yet know about the incident because they were at work.

The chief called the incident one of the largest fires he’s seen in his 17-year career.

“It’s a block-long commercial stretch,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse with all of those people living above. This is an old building. There are no sprinklers or fire escapes. They had no way of getting out. Had this been the middle of the night, it could have been more tragic.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, authorities said.

With Laura Blasey

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