The majority of the serious fires that broke out in New York City as Superstorm Sandy slammed the region were caused by sea water shorting out electrical systems, the FDNY said Monday. One of those fires destroyed more than a hundred homes in Breezy Point, Queens.
"Super Storm Sandy created challenges for the Department on every level, from our fire suppression and rescue efforts that night to the painstaking investigative work that followed," Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said in a statement.
The Breezy Point fire began when the storm surge flooded electrical system of a home at 173 Ocean Avenue at about 8:30 p.m. on October 29, 2012. The FDNY couldn't get to the fire because of severe flooding conditions, Cassano said. The hurricane-strength winds quickly spread the fire to nearby houses. By the time firefighters got the fire under control at about 6:30 a.m. the next day, 126 homes were destroyed and 22 were damaged, the department said.
"A total of 21 serious fires occurred during the storm, destroying more than 200 homes and businesses across the city," Cassano said, "and Fire Marshals have determined that most were sparked by sea water impacting electrical systems and components in and around these structures."
Fire marshals determined that a major fire that torched 17 buildings on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens started when utility wires fell onto a three-story building.
Investigators also ruled that the fire that destroyed 32 buildings in Belle Harbor, Queens, started when utility wires damaged by the storm ignited the eaves of 239 Beach 129 Street. Also in that case, firefighters couldn't get to the fire for several hours because of flooding, the FDNY said.
Also, a fire that virtually destroyed Tony's Pier on City Island in the Bronx started when overhead utility wires collapsed onto the restaurant, the FDNY said.
In addition to the 21 serious fires that burned during the storm, another 73 structural fires were storm-related, fire marshals said. The FDNY said 68 fires were electrical, 20 were caused by an open flame, such as a candle or stove top, and 6 were sparked by generators.