Sunday, January 20, 2008
SRO fire claims 3 lives in Brooklyn
Three Latin American immigrants living far from their families while eking out a living died Saturday in a blaze that swept the Brooklyn building where they rented rooms, authorities and neighbors said.
Two others were seriously hurt in the early-morning fire.
Four Dead, Several Hurt in Bronx, Brooklyn Fires
"They all lived alone, and I don't know if they were legal immigrants," said Ahmed Tebet, who works at the New Way Supermarket grocery store next door to the fire.
One victim jumped from a window to escape the blaze, and the other four were found unconscious in one room, firefighters said.
It took 60 firefighters about 40 minutes to get control of the blaze, which was reported shortly before 7 a.m. on the top floor of a two-story building on 18th Avenue near New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood.
Ahmed Tebet, who works at the New Way Supermarket grocery store next door to the fire, said the building was occupied by single young men from Guatemala who worked in construction and house painting.
They lived above a 99 Cent Plus Store in an ethnically mixed neighborhood - Italian, Arabic and Hispanic - of mostly single-family homes.
In recent years, a new wave of Latin American immigrants have moved to the neighborhood, which for decades was mostly populated by working-class Italian-Americans. Many young workers get up before dawn to line 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst's main artery, and wait to be picked up by contractors' vans for day jobs, sending their meager earnings to families back home.
3 Die in Fire at Brooklyn Apartment
Residents and merchants in the neighborhood said the apartment had three or four bedrooms and housed as many as 10 Guatemalan workers.
Emilio Chavez, 30, an immigrant from Guatemala who lives about a block away, said he usually came out about 7 a.m. to look for work. In the winter, he said, he only works about two days a week. When it is warm, he said, he works nearly every day, usually making about $80 per day.
Mr. Chavez said the four-bedroom apartment where he lives in is usually occupied by nine or 10 men at a time.
“I worry about fires,” he said. “Yes, maybe my apartment catch fire, too.”
Photo from 1010WINS.