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Fire destroys Brentwood home of 21 people, officials say

It took about 3 1/2 hours for 100 firefighters from seven departments to extinguish the Wurz Street blaze.

Volunteer firefighters from the Brentwood Fire Department work

Volunteer firefighters from the Brentwood Fire Department work to extinguish a house fire on Wurz Street just after noon Thursday. Credit: Paul Mazza

Twenty-one people lost their home in a Brentwood fire that rapidly spiraled out of control Thursday after residents tried to put out flames with a garden hose, fire officials said.

Intensifying screams around noontime forced Jason Capurso to rush outside his Wurz Street home, where he saw two youngsters and three young adults running out of the two-story ranch across the street. The smoke billowing from the back of the house soon became jet black as he tried to calm the crying children, who were about 2 or 3 years old, he said.

“I said ‘Come across the street, get away from the house,’ ” said Capurso, a stay-at-home dad. “Right as we got across the street, the front bay window blew out and the flames started coming out the front window and the roof went up [in flames]. It was incredible how fast it spread.”

About 100 firefighters from seven departments battled the flames from the outside, unable to go in because the house was already an inferno when first responders arrived, said Brentwood Fire Chief Michael Derbyshire. He said the blaze started on the ground level.

“People were home and they tried to extinguish it with a garden hose, prior to notifying us,” the chief said.

That mistake contributed to the fire’s intensity because a fire “doubles in size every minute,” Derbyshire said.

Firefighters took turns hosing down the flames due to the intense heat on top of the hot weather, the chief said. Islip Town dispatched an excavator to knock down half the house so that firefighters could reach the interior to put out flames, he said.

“The roof collapsed and then we had a floor collapse so everything was exterior operations,” Derbyshire said.

The blaze was declared under control about three and a half hours later, he said. Police said arson detectives were investigating the cause but said it did not appear to be suspicious.

Two residents of the home were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital to be treated for minor injuries, one with smoke inhalation and the other with a minor hand burn, authorities said.

An adjoining house was damaged when radiant heat melted its siding and started a small fire in a shed, Derbyshire said.

No injuries were reported for the firefighters, who were from Brentwood, Islip, Central Islip, Islip Terrace, Commack, Deer Park and East Brentwood, the chief said. Brentwood Legion Ambulance stood by, he said.

Red Cross was helping the displaced residents, witnesses said.

Capurso said the owners live there with their family, including an 11-year-old son whose face fell when he stepped off the school bus and saw his home, where his collection of Dragon Ball Z animé figures, books and clothing was destroyed.

The stay-at-home dad said he was glad no one died and that the fire brought out other neighbors he had never met before in his eight years of living there.

They have all decided to get to know each other, plan a block party and support the fire victims, said Capurso, who started by buying his 11-year-old neighbor a Dragon Ball Z action figure.

“Because of what happened today, I met five people who are immediate neighbors of mine,” Capurso said. “It’s sad that something like this had to bring people out to show that we’re all caring and we’re all kind. We all live here. We’re a community. We should know each other.”

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