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Police find 'precursor' explosive materials at scene of Queens fire; man taken into custody

AstoriaFire
Posted at 8:47 PM, Sep 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 07:27:08-04

ASTORIA, Queens — UPDATE: A man taken into custody has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment.

Original story:
Parts of an Astoria block were evacuated Tuesday and a man taken into custody after police found "precursor materials" for an explosive at the scene of a house fire.

Officials said the resident of the home's bottom floor — where the fire originated — was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital for evaluation. Police described him as "emotionally disturbed."

Flames broke out at a home on 19th Street near Astoria Park on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. The bomb squad was requested for a suspicious package at the scene.

At the scene, officials found chemicals and other hazardous materials, as well as books and manuals regarding military explosives and booby traps.

While officials did not find a "completed improvised explosive device," the fire could have created a much more serious situation due to the hazardous nature of storing the chemicals near each other, officials said.

Video showed police take a shirtless man into custody. He was found hiding behind the home.

Police said once the hazardous materials are removed from the scene and taken to a secure location, neighbors with homes adjacent to the scene will be allowed to return.

While police and FDNY officials conducted an initial investigation to ensure the home's safety, further investigation into potential criminal behavior requires a search warrant.

No criminal charges have been filed, and officials did not reveal the cause of the fire.

The man in custody is "known to the department" according to police.

The owner of the home told PIX11 the FDNY pulled a black crate into the front yard as they fought the blaze. The owner, who called the FBI, said there were fuses and powder in the crate.

The NYPD cordoned off several blocks in the area. Officials asked people to avoid the area due to a "police emergency."

Aliza Chasan contributed.