A three-alarm fire spread through three mixed-use buildings along a commercial strip on Canal Street in Stapleton Wednesday, inflicting widespread damage to multiple businesses and a second floor apartment, FDNY Deputy Chief Richard Howe said.
A firefighter suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene after being hit on the head with a falling object while battling the blaze, but no one else was hurt, Howe said.
The fire started just after 2 p.m. on the first floor of Digovnor, Inc., a shipping company located at 219 Canal St. that often rents out its first floor space as a party hall, according to neighbors. From there, the blaze spread up and out through a shaft to the adjacent building, which houses a first-floor beauty salon and a second-floor apartment, and then on to the top floor of a third building that contains a clothing store, Howe said.
“There’s heavy damage in the two buildings on the left (219 and 217 Canal St.) and the building on the right (215 Canal St.) has some top floor damage,” Howe said.
Shampoo Haircutters, where five hairdressers were working when the fire started next door, was the only building of the three that was occupied at the time.
Shampoo owner Edwin Rodriguez said he had been at the salon all morning, but had run out momentarily to pick up some beauty supplies when the fire erupted.
“It smelled like smoke. That’s all,” Rodriguez said, translating for one of his Spanish-speaking hairdressers who said she called the fire department immediately and then evacuated the store. “They looked all over. We didn’t have any fire in our store. Everything happened next door, and then it spread this way.”
Maritza Caba, a Shampoo stylist who lived with her two children in the second floor apartment above the salon, watched helplessly, tears welling in her eyes, as both her home and the salon she managed burned and smoldered.
“That’s just devastating,” said Gloria Cepeda, whose daughter is close with Caba’s daughter, Shelley Anne. “Where you live, your place of employment. I can’t imagine.”
Shelley Anne Caba, 15, arrived home from Petrides High School to find the area outside her home surrounded by hundreds of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel.
“I was on the bus and the bus driver said that he wouldn’t come this route because it was closed off,” she said. “So we had to get off over there and I ran with my friends here.”
The teen, bundled up in a green puffy coat, stood over her seated mother outside Romeo’s Pizza, across the street from where firefighters were putting out the blaze’s final flames. She said the family planned to stay at a cousin’s house on nearby Tompkins Avenue for the night. Their dog, Puffy, was already there, she said.
Before the Cabas can return to assess the damage to their home, the building department must evaluate the building’s structural integrity to make sure it is safe to enter, Deputy Chief Richard Howe said.
Fire marshals are still investigating what caused the blaze.
Written and photos by Zak Koeske