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Residents flee E. Northport fire on coldest day

Firefighters respond to a blaze on Larkfield Road

Firefighters respond to a blaze on Larkfield Road in East Northport. The fire forced the evacuation of 52 residents from an apartment complex, authorities said. (Jan. 3, 2014 ) Credit: Tony Guerne

A fire in an East Northport store and apartment complex sent scores of people running out onto snow-covered sidewalks Friday in below-freezing temperatures, authorities said.

The blaze started about 3 p.m. in a rear work area of a vacuum store located at 376 Larkfield Rd. The shop is part of a 4,000-square-foot strip center that has three stores, five apartments above them and 16 apartments in the rear, police, fire and Huntington officials said.

"When we pulled up, there was heavy fire on the first floor, smoke coming out the front of the building, fire out the back," East Northport fire Chief Joseph Ervin said.

Police said 52 people were evacuated because of the blaze. Residents were relocated to a dry cleaner down the block to stay warm as the fire was put out.

"Some people were in shock," Ervin said. "There were a couple people who didn't have their shoes on. Some people had their coats."

Four people were treated for anxiety at Huntington Hospital and released, he said. There were no other injuries, police said.

The fire was under control in 45 minutes, with aid from Commack, Greenlawn and Huntington firefighters, Ervin said.

"We had to walk on ice and snow," he said. Firefighters "just had to be a little more diligent in their footing."

The fire damaged the stores -- shoe repair, vacuum and record shops -- and five apartments above them, the chief said. The property has been for sale for $3.6 million.

The residents of 16 apartments were taken by two Huntington Town transit buses to the Salvation Army's East Northport office to get help from Red Cross and Suffolk County social services, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

The apartments in the rear were not damaged, but 42 residents were temporarily housed at the Salvation Army building because all the gas and electric lines were shut down while the fire was being extinguished, authorities said.

Crews from the town, PSEG Long Island and National Grid restored power to the rear apartments and residents returned home by 7:30 p.m., Ervin said.

Three families were relocated by the Red Cross to the Hampton Inn in Commack, police said. The exact cause of the fire has not been determined, but police said appeared to be noncriminal.

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