On Saturday evening, officers found the body of 39-year-old Golam Saroar inside 40-46 Case Street in Elmhurst. Firefighters were back on the scene within an hour.
The home caught fire just after 5 a.m. on Friday. Another resident in the building suffered serious burns and was pulled from the home by firefighters. Two other suffered minor injuries.
The home had an illegal apartment in the basement, and the first floor had been subdivided into multiple single-room units. Reports stated there were over 20 people living in the building just off busy Roosevelt Avenue.
“There was a lot of people,” said Lieutenant Kevin O'Hare of Ladder 154, which responded to the fire. “We know in this neighborhood that these home are packed with people.”
O'Hare rescued the man who was seriously injured. He had wrapped himself in bed sheets to protect himself from the flames.
“He miraculously survived in very heavy fire conditions,” said Deputy Chief Mark Ferran at Ladder 154/Engine Company 307 on Northern Boulevard last Friday afternoon.
Fire marshals determined the cause of the fire was faulty wiring. It took over 100 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, and seven firefighters were hurt, including one who was injured when the stairs to the attic collapsed, which likely prevented rescuers from reaching Saroar.
“We had a serious stair collapse as we tried to move up to the attic,” said Ferran.
The Case Street fire wasn't the only serious incident that firefighters from Ladder 154 and Engine 307 had to deal with that morning. Just after midnight, the firefighters responded to a fire on 71st Street in Jackson Heights.
In that incident, they rescued seven-year-old cousins Jasmine and Sahron Basra. Both girls were taken to an area hospital in critical but stable condition.
When firefighter Akira Rodriguez and Lieutenant Todd Smith arrived on the scene, they were met by the frantic father of one of the girls, who told them they were trapped in a back bedroom.
“I heard screams from the back bedroom and moved past the fire,” said Rodriguez. “Once the smoke cleared, I saw a rear door and pushed them out.”
Smith was waiting, and performed mouth-to-mouth on the girl before EMS crews took over.
“It's heart-wrenching,” said Smith, himself a father. “We wish we had a hospital on the corner in that situation.”
“We got reports that people were trapped, so we knew it was a rescue operation,” added O'Hare, who called his two-fire shift a “very unusual night.” “It was a very panicky scene.”
Two other boys in the home were forced to throw their mattresses on the ground and jump from a second-story window to escape.
The Jackson Heights fire was started by candles that were left burning in front a Hindu shrine in a closet. In both fires, there were smoke detectors but they weren't working.
“It's very frustrating,” said Ferran. “I have a wood-frame house in Queens and I have five smoke detectors.”
“We can prevent these injuries and fatalities with a very simple technology,” said Chief Edward Baggott before praising the work of the firefighters. “But three people in Queens are alive right now because of these people behind me.”