Photo: Fire officials meet on E. 143rd Street on May 19, a day after a blaze consumed four vacant buildings on the residential street.

Fire destroys four buildings on E. 143rd Street

An inferno that gutted four attached houses on E. 143rd Street in the middle of the night on May 18, is still under investigation.

The three-alarm blaze that destroyed 416, 418, 420 and 422 E. 143rd Street was first reported to the FDNY at 2:50 a.m. on Wednesday.

One firefighter and one civilian suffered minor injuries in the blaze. All four buildings were under vacate orders resulting from a less destructive fire that caused damage last October, but only 22 E. 143rd Street is known to have been under renovations when the fire broke out.

Standing in front of the collapsed two-story structures with other fire and city buildings officials the day after the fire, Deputy Fire Chief James Donlevy of the FDNY’s 6th division on Walton Avenue said there was no hope any of the buildings could be saved.

“It’s all coming down,” he said. “It’s all compromised.”

The FDNY, Donlevy said, will have to secure the scene “until we can pull this apart.” That could take weeks or months, he added, while the city finds contractors to do the work.

Lewis Holman, who lives across the street from where the blaze happened, said cars regularly park in front of a hydrant on the north side of E. 143rd St., right across from where the fire broke out, and although he has complained about it to firefighters, nothing has been done. He pointed to an SUV parked in front of the hydrant, even as a dozen city officials stood in the street conferring about the damage.

“Firefighters have told me it’s not worth ticketing in this neighborhood,” said Holman, 63. As a result “people keep parking in front of this hydrant.” He wondered if the firefighters he spoke with were willing to admit that to him “because I’m a middle-aged white guy.” 

Holman worried that when the gutted buildings are eventually taken down, developers could jump at the opportunity to convert the open space into a high-rise on the residential street of two-story houses.

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