Fire Sweeps Through Fulton St. Building Twice in Two Days

Smoke billows from two floors of 140 Fulton Street the morning of Sunday, March 17. Photo courtesy of Ed Wood (photographer: Chiara Wood).

Mar. 18, 2013

Less than 24 hours after a four-alarm blaze struck a commercial building at 140 Fulton Street Sunday morning, a second fire swept through the same five-story building.

One firefighter was taken to New York Downtown Hospital with minor injuries while fighting the second blaze, which started around 2 a.m. Monday morning. No other injuries were reported. Firefighters were ordered out of the building after a partial collapse of the roof and fears of a total collapse of the structure, an FDNY spokesman said.

Nearly 170 firefighters responded to the first fire, a four-alarm that was reported around 7 a.m. Sunday morning and brought under control two-and-a-half hours later.

The first fire caused the evacuation of a five-family residential building next door at 138 Fulton, which shares a party wall with 140.

Twelve-year-old Bennett Wood anxiously awoke his family when he smelled smoke in his third-floor apartment and alerted his parents.

“Our whole apartment was filled with black smoke,” Bennett’s father, Ed Wood, said. “We woke up everybody [in the building] and called 911.”

As the Woods and their neighbors evacuated their homes, 140 Fulton was engulfed in flames. Firefighters broke through walls in their building in order to extinguish the flames.

Several hours later, early Sunday afternoon, the residents were allowed back into their homes to assess the damage to their apartments and collect personal belongings.

“There’s a lot of smoke damage—there’s sticky soot on everything we own,” said Wood, standing at a corner half a block from his building.

“Our apartment is pretty heavily damaged from the water damage, and the Fire Department ripped out one of our walls,” said Salvo Stoch, who lives on the second floor of 138 Fulton.

The damage became even greater, Stoch said, after firefighters reentered his apartment to fight the second, three-alarm blaze Monday morning.

“It could have been a hell of a lot more dangerous had it happened in the middle of the night and the smoke crept to where people were sleeping,” Stoch said.

Stoch said a fire official told him he believed a wood joist shared between the two buildings, unnoticed and smoldering from the first fire, may have set off the second fire.

“At this time it is not being labeled as suspicious,” an FDNY spokesman said Monday morning. “We are doing a proper and thorough investigation into both incidents at that location.”

Arson investigators were in the building Monday morning, according to a fire official at the scene who did not want to be identified.

The building has a history violations, with nine deemed “immediately hazardous” or “major” since 2010. All but two of them remain open, according to the DOB website.

Ownership of the structure is listed as Fulton Associates LLC. Neighbors say the owner is Century Realty, which has a listing at the 140 Fulton address. Century Realty has ties to the Gindi family, owners of Century 21 Department Store. Calls to Century Realty were answered by a recording stating that the “office is currently closed.”