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Fire at Leisure Village in Ridge leaves 8 homeless before Thanksgiving

Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed two condos

Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed two condos and left eight people homeless at Leisure Village, an adult community, in Ridge. (Nov. 25, 2013) Credit: Thomas J. Lambui

A fire at a Ridge adult community left eight people homeless Monday, scrambling to rebuild their lives just days before Thanksgiving, authorities said.

No one was hurt in the 3:30 p.m. blaze that started at an end of 233 Blackpool Court, a one-story building with four apartments in the Leisure Village complex, authorities said.

Ridge Fire Chief John Mirando said fast-moving flames spread through the attic to the other apartments.

Two units were destroyed, he said, and the others suffered damage.

None of building's residents will be able to be home for the holiday, the chief said. "We had to cut holes in the roof for venting. Every apartment has holes in the roof, and LIPA came in and had to cut all power to the building," he added.

Victor Longaro, 65, said the condominium that he and his wife, Margaret Longaro, moved into a year ago for their retirement was "a total loss."

They'll spend Thanksgiving with family, and he said he was looking forward to the holiday, fire and all. "I'm going to be thankful for the fact that we're still around, and I didn't lose a wife, and my wife didn't lose a husband," he said.

Another fire victim, Vincent Veltre, 81, said he was home when the fire started, and was put on hold for 2 minutes by 911.

An avid cook who had moved to Leisure Village from Oceanside in 2007, Veltre had planned to prepare a Thanksgiving meal with his girlfriend. But now, his ranch-style condo is "basically destroyed," he said.

Standing in the community's clubhouse after the Red Cross left, Veltre said he salvaged just a plastic bag of medicines. He will move in temporarily with a daughter in Rockville Centre, he said, and maybe celebrate Thanksgiving with her.

The displaced residents found temporary housing with relatives, Mirando said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Maintenance worker Werner Tryller said he and three co-workers were nearby digging a hole for a light post when they saw smoke.

"We saw that the inside of the house was on fire, so we tried spraying it down with hose water for maybe a minute or so," said Tryller, 24, of Ridge.

Realizing that was fruitless, they banged and kicked in apartment doors, he said, evacuating one woman who didn't know there was a fire.

Leisure Village security guard Doug McLaughlin said he rushed to the scene to evacuate people across the street.

"I was worried about people being trapped," said McLaughlin, 23, of Holtsville. "People here are 55 and up and a lot of people are handicapped and can't move quickly."

Mirando said about 65 firefighters from 10 departments controlled the blaze by 4:45 p.m.At one point, a resident returned to see his home in flames, Mirando said.

"He wanted to know where it started, and we told him it was his unit," the chief said. "He was pretty much devastated from that point on. It's the holiday season. To sit there and watch the house burn down -- he was definitely distraught."

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