A fire in a Prospect Avenue building killed a family of three early in the morning of Monday, April 25.
Juan Manuel Lopez, 36, Christina Garcia, 43, and their 12-year-old son Christian Garcia all perished in the blaze that broke out shortly after 3 a.m.
Neighbors said that the building, 2321 Prospect Avenue, had long been problematic. They suggested that the building was not hooked up to the city’s electrical grid and instead relied on a kerosene generator. Squatters were living in the house, some suggested.
“It wasn’t like a regular fire,” said Yohance Marsh, whose family owns the townhouse next door. “The way it took off so fast, it was blazing.”
Con Edison has confirmed that it was not providing the address with electricity. The City’s Department of Buildings records show the address has received complaints for lack of secondary exit and defective wiring, dating back to October 2009.
Cameo Lee lives in an apartment on Crotona Avenue and shares a back alley with the house. She said the yelling from inside the burning house woke her up immediately.
“At first I thought it was something physical, like someone getting beaten, because the screams were so piercing,” Lee said.
All residents of the buildings lower floors made it out alive, although several people, including firefighters, were treated at area hospitals for injuries. Lee said she saw “about three firemen looking like they got burned” from her window.
The FDNY said it received the first call at 3:34 a.m. It dispatched 106 firefighters and had the blaze under control by 4:40 a.m.
Flames engulfed the entire building, to the point they were shooting out from the roof and out of the windows.
“I saw flames coming out of the while building,” said Hector Negron, who lives across the street. “My wife called me and I looked out the window and saw the whole house on fire. It was crazy. I’ve been living on this block for 15 years and this is definitely the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Miraculously, Marsh and the 11 family members he lives with in the adjoining building were able to make it out, all unscathed.
“It was a true team effort,” he said. “My seven-month pregnant sister-in-law woke us all up.”
He said the family plans to stay with relatives. Their home ended up being burned almost as badly as the one next door. Marsh said the home was insured, but many mementos were lost.
“At least we all made it out,” he said. “That’s the important thing.”
©2011 Community News Group