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Throggs Neck community open arms and wallets to help fire victims

Bronx Times

The Throggs Neck community is coming together to help after a horrific local fire that injured 19 and left three families homeless.

Donations of cash and gift cards were being accepted at St. Benedict’s Church after the Thursday, Feb. 13 fire that destroyed one home and severely damaged an attached one on Dean Avenue near Barkley Avenue.

Five firefighters and 14 civilians were injured, mostly from smoke inhalation, with three of the civilians suffering major but non-life threatening injuries, fire officials said.

The Pirraglia family, which owned the destroyed building at 1018 Dean Ave., also had just lost a grandmother when the accidental electrical fire broke out that morning in the middle of a fierce snowstorm.

Outpouring of help

“People have been really generous,” said Father Stephen Norton, pastor of St. Benedict’s Church, where the Pirraglias are parishioners. “Because we are who we are, obviously and most importantly, they are asking for prayers,” as well as for financial assistance, he said of some of the victims.

The parish decided to accept cash donations in church and at the rectory, and gift cards to local department stores because they did not have the ability to accept clothing and household items, he added, with the drive continuing through the weekend.

“They suggested and asked if we could help them out financially and with pre-paid cards, and people have been really good about that,” said Norton.

“It is tough because of the fire of course, but the people who own the building were in the process of trying to bury a grandmother,” he added.

Hampered by storm

The four-alarm blaze tore through 1018-20 Dean Avenue the day of one of the worst Nor’easters of the season, starting on the first floor and quickly spreading the second and third floors.

The snow fall and winds from the Nor’easter made fighting the fire especially difficult, since two attached homes are only one block from Eastchester Bay, said Fire Department spokesman Frank Dwyer.

“It made for very difficult conditions,” with the winds fanning the fire even more, said Dwyer. “In addition, there were issues with frozen hydrants that our firefighters had to overcome.”

“The wind was blowing from the bay, and the firefighters were trying to spray water on the fire,” said neighbor Richard Tagliarino, “but it was going the other way.”

He said he saw a child being taken out of the building in an ambulance.

Frozen hydrant

Neighbor Anne Fucci, said she saw firefighters trying to open a hydrant, “but it was frozen.”

“The firemen did an excellent job,” she said. “They were here all day long and I saw how they performed.”

It took 170 firefighters to put out the fire, which was first reported at 9:25 a.m. and under control by 12:26 p.m.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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