Updated 01/06/2009 02:00 PM
Fire Destroys City Island Building, Sparking Controversy
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A fire this morning left a City Island building in ruins – and the Bronx neighborhood is now questioning the city's decision to close a local ladder company.
Flames broke out just before 4 a.m. inside a two-story building at 240 City Island Avenue at Schofield Street. Fire officials say the cause of the fire was an overloaded power strip.
Three people who resided in the building were taken to Lincoln Hospital for smoke inhalation. They are expected to recover.
A cat and dog were killed in the blaze.
The fire, which took nearly two hours to extinguish, burned through the roof, engulfing the upper floor.
Of the three fire companies to respond this morning, one of them, Ladder 53 is on the city's list to close during 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. due to budget cuts. The closure is scheduled to take effect on January 17.
Residents say Ladder 53 was able to arrive on the scene within one-and-a-half minutes.
"These guys were here one, two, three," said one City Island resident. "They came right down the block. The companies outside, it took them some time to get here. We do need this fire department here."
"You can't fight a fire with an engine company and no hose company," said another. "It's just absurd. Nine-and-a-half minutes minimum to get a ladder here; that's just ridiculous."
The FDNY reported that off-island units arrived within nine minutes, but other residents, like Moe Sal who lost the deli he owned for nearly 20 years, said firemen from the took longer to arrive.
"When I came outside there was one truck and by the time the other firefighters came it took about 20 minutes," said Sal.
At a town hall meeting last month, a fire chief said that Ladder 53 is one of the least active units in the FDNY. Out of the 144 runs last year, only one was at night.
However, Bronx Councilman James Vacca says that should not matter.
"We can't just go and play a numbers game," he said. "We have to look at life and limb of people here on City Island and those who come to its many restaurants over the summer. We are concerned that the withdrawal of this ladder company is going to be a life and death matter."
"Those who know City Island and our isolation and traffic access issues know we're not the place to remove a ladder company for 14, 15 hours," Vacca continued.
Sources say no change to the decision is planned but fire officials always review and monitor the department's operations and resources.