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19 injured as fire tears through Staten Island homes

staten island fire
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 22:19:46-05

WOODROW, Staten Island — A fire tore through six Staten Island homes on Monday afternoon, injuring 19 people, according to the FDNY.

None of the injuries were life threatening. The five-alarm blaze, which started on Rensselaer Avenue near Foster Road, could have been worse. Paul Oliveri, a retired NYPD sergeant, joined several neighbors to save a disabled woman. They ran into her burning home.

"She can't move. She has 24-hour care and we carried her out to safety," Oliveri said.

The homes involved are attached, officials said.

"A total of six buildings eventually became involved," Chief of Department John Sudnik said. "The fire extended very quickly, mostly due to the construction of the building."

The blaze started around 3 p.m. It was knocked down about an hour later.

Richie Gargiulo wrapped himself in a Red Cross blanket as firefighters worked to put out the fire. He is one of dozens of people who are now without a home.

"I was sleeping. My brother woke me up and he was just getting out of the shower and told me, 'The house is on fire, the house is on fire!' I am heavy sleeper too, I won't wake up for anything. He might have saved my life," he said.

Smoke could be seen billowing into the sky. More than 200 firefighters responded.

People were advised to expect traffic delays in the area. Residents should keep windows closed.

Officials initially said eight homes were on fire.

Witnesses described an explosion when the flames started. The FDNY said fire marshals are investigating what caused the fire.