USA — A large wind-driven brush fire erupted on Staten Island on Easter afternoon, sending up giant billows of smoke that could be seen from as far away as Manhattan and New Jersey. About 250 firefighters were deployed to battle the blaze. No injuries were reported.
Firefighters declared a sixth alarm at 3:20 p.m. at the blaze that began in Oakwood Beach near Mill Road and Kissam Avenue and quickly spread toward New Dorp Beach. Three houses on Kissam Avenue — one reportedly abandoned — were said to have been damaged by the flames. The vacant house collapsed. The other two homes were evacuated and sustained less damage.
The brush fire ignited just before 2 p.m. It was declared substantially under control by about 4:45 p.m. But a retaining wall along the waterfront on Cedar Grove Avenue near Ebbitts Street was still aflame, with reports of burning PVC piping sending off large plumes of smoke.
Firemen in tower ladders and on the ground battled the stubborn smokey fire in the area of Great Kills Park. They set up a staging area at Adelaide Avenue and Mill Road. Portions of the fire also moved north in the brush to areas near Guyon Avenue and near Tysens Lane. A separate alarm was broadcast for a fire at Tysens Lane and Roma Avenue in New Dorp Beach.
Smoke filled the air in all of those East Shore areas and flames could be seen blazing skyward.
On Kissam Avenue residents used garden hoses in the backyards, helping keep fences wet, as groups of firefighters worked furiously in the scrub behind them.
Large numbers of spectators from local neighborhoods and elsewhere watched the smoke and flames. Traffic jammed as roads were blocked off to allow firefighters to battle the blaze.
“I saw flames getting kind of close and could feel the heat,” said Nancy Tortorella, a longtime resident of Kissam Avenue. “The firemen put out the fire in the brush near my house pretty fast.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sherry Greco, who has lived on Prominade Avenue for 10 years. “It came about 30 feet from my house. A brush fire has never come that close before.”
With the wind whipping and plumes of dark smoke rising high into the sky, the blaze raged in the low bush about 20 yards behind the homes on Kissam Avenue.
“It sounded like a roar of a train, but it was the flames,” said resident Pedro Correra, who said the fire was moving so quickly it seemed it was licking at their backyards in the span of a minute.
He said he took his wife and 3-year-old up the block in their car.
“I checked the other houses to make sure all the neighbors were out,” he said.
With the fire raging just yards away, he and a neighbor went into a home across the street, and took out their Rotweiller and two pugs and put them in their car, readying them in the event they had to make a hasty evacuation.
Then he rushed back to the house, and climbed on the roof to hose it down.
Correra, who moved into the area just 16 months ago, said neighbors had warned him about the brush fires, but he never imagined anything so dramatic.
“I had no idea it was like this,” he said. “It’s truly amazing.”
In parts of the East Shore, residents were seen standing on balconies to watch the fire.