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Kew Gardens fire destroys 14 stores, hurts 3 firefighters, says FDNY

A fire destroyed more than a dozen storefronts

A fire destroyed more than a dozen storefronts on a block in  Kew Gardens, Queens,  on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, officials said. Photo Credit: Lou Minutoli

A fire in Kew Gardens, Queens, on Friday destroyed 14 stores, the New York City Fire Department said.

Extinguishing the blaze took almost six hours and nearly 200 firefighters, said Firefighter John Ryan, an FDNY spokesman.

“It’s pretty serious,” he said Saturday morning. “The buildings are pretty destroyed.”

No civilians were hurt, though three firefighters sustained minor injuries, Ryan said. Two went to nearby New York Hospital Queens and a third refused medical treatment.

Ryan said the cause of the fire was unknown and was being investigated. The landlord of the stores, Doug Rodger of East Meadow, said in an interview, “We have no clue how it started.”

The initial 911 call, placed Friday at about 6:30 p.m., reported a fire at 77-49 Vleigh Place, Ryan said, near a law office, a barber shop, a dry cleaners, a candy store and several kosher eateries.

The fire was brought under control — after five alarms, meaning four additional groups of firefighters needed to be brought in — at about 12:05 a.m. Saturday.

The landlord said he went to the scene and saw “these people’s livelihoods, all just burned up,” with damage likely totaling millions of dollars.

“I’m sure it’s well into the millions. The whole place is gone as far as I saw,” said Rodger, whose family has owned the property for four decades. “I’m under the impression it’s a complete loss.”

The stores are in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and were mostly unoccupied because of Sabbath eve, according to Rodger, when observant Jews don’t work or shop.

The conflagration happened in the middle of the borough, just west of the busy Queens thoroughfare Main Street, and near the interchange of the Grand Central, Van Wyck, Grand Central and Jackie Robinson parkways.

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