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FDNY battles five-alarm Labor Day warehouse fire in Willets Point

Sep. 5, 2023 By Bill Parry

The FDNY was forced to get creative while battling a massive five-alarm fire in Willets Point on Monday night.

The blaze broke out in the roof of a Department of Transportation storage facility along the Whitestone Expressway just before 10 p.m. on Sept. 4, according to FDNY. The first units on the scene immediately recognized that there was virtually no water pressure at the remote location so FDNY maritime units drafted water from Flushing Bay to the 60 units that responded bringing 200 firefighters and EMS personnel to the scene at 32-11 Harper Street just north of Citi Field.

Two hundred firefighters battled a five-alarm warehouse fire in Willets Point on Labor Day where they were forced to deal with low water pressure at area hydrants. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“We had our special operations command units on the scene and we utilized something we don’t do very often,” FDNY Assistant Chief Joseph Ferrante, the Queens borough commander, said Tuesday morning. “Due to the low water pressure in this area, it was very challenging for us, but we are very close to the bay, we had our special operations units and we used engines in sequence and we drafted water from the bay to the tower ladders to contain and eventually extinguish the fire, which as I said, was contained in the roof of this building.”

It took more than four hours to bring the five-alarm fire under control at the DOT’s Harper Street Plant, a one-story warehouse and maintenance facility. The city’s Office of Emergency Management warned residents of Corona and Flushing to keep their windows shut to avoid breathing in smoke as traffic on the Whitestone Expressway was closed to motor vehicles. There were no DOT personnel inside the building when the fire broke out.

“First of all, thank you to the firefighters that were here last night and thank God that there was no one inside it for our agents, security guards or drivers or anything like that,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said. “I left this area at 1:30 a.m. and to see the men or women of the fire department in action is something that truly makes us very proud.”

Two hundred firefighters battled a five-alarm warehouse fire in Willets Point on Labor Day where they were forced to deal with low water pressure at area hydrants. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The fire was brought under control at around 2:10 a.m. Tuesday morning. Five firefighters were treated for minor injuries, according to FDNY.

“They were non-life-threatening injuries to the firefighters and at this point, they are all in stable condition,” Ferrante said. “You know temperatures went up again, summer is not over, it got hot last night,” Ferrante said. “It was very humid when I got here, it was really just the extreme weather conditions that caused these fatigue-like injuries. Our fire marshals were here last night and they are on scene right now investigating the cause of this fire. Right now we’re maintaining a presence, keeping an eye on it to make sure no hotspots pop up and we will be at it for probably a good part of the day.”

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell.

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