A fire ravaged the apartment building at 5 Schenck Avenue in Great Neck Plaza a week ago Wednesday, March 25. The fire was called in at 1:45 p.m., according to Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Chief Bryan O'Malley. Although there was great damage to the building, no serious injuries were reported.

Black smoke billowed in the sky above the Schenck Avenue apartment fire.
Photo by Kimberly Dresch

There are over 50 apartments in the building, according to a report from police at Nassau County's Sixth Precinct. Police, too, were on the scene.

Great Neck Plaza officials report that the fire was called in by village building inspectors Michael Sweeney and Joe Diaz, who reported that Manhasset-Lakeville responded within minutes.

Chief O'Malley told the Great Neck Record that the fire was brought under control in an hour-and-a-half. He reported that the fire was "heavily involved" when the firefighters arrived on the scene, with the fire blazing in three third floor apartments and flames coming through the roof. The chief added that the fire was confined to one wing of the building.

Finding a young woman and a small child trapped on a balcony, firefighters entered the building, rescuing the two by escorting them down to safety.

Chief O'Malley said that 95 Manhasset-Lakeville firefighters fought the fire, along with well over 50 additional firefighters from near-by fire departments, including those from Great Neck's Alert and Vigilant fire companies. Seven fire departments sent mutual aid to the scene in the form of firefighters and equipment, while three fire companies stood by to help protect Great Neck while the Great Neck firefighters fought the Plaza blaze. Three tower ladders and two engines arrived from neighboring fire companies.

The chief further reported that three victims were brought to the hospital, two firefighters and a building superintendent. Chief O'Malley said that the two firefighters were treated for minor injuries and released. According to a Plaza spokesperson, the building superintendent was hospitalized, but recovering.

Chief O'Malley said that there was a lot of water damage and that there was a "partial roof collapse."

Thanks to "mutual aid and a lot of cooperation," the chief said that "for the amount of fire, it didn't travel." Chief O'Malley also noted that the firefighters fought a great battle, "a great stop to that fire ... it was extreme when we arrived."

Red Cross was on the scene quickly, offering immediate assistance and setting up a "reception center." The Red Cross reported to the Record that they were prepared to open a shelter if necessary. As well, the Manhasset-Lakeville fire department opened the Prospect Street firehouse as an emergency center and kept it open overnight. In addition, Plaza officials report that Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth was instrumental in assisting and arranging housing accommodations for several families beyond the emergency sheltering provided by the American Red Cross.

Once the fire was brought under control and the building could be inspected, Michael Sweeney, the Plaza's commissioner of public services, declared the building closed for occupancy due to the damage sustained to the building in the fire. According to Mr. Sweeney's office, the approximately 30 families living in the building were temporarily relocated. At press time, the apartments and professional offices in the building remained closed. However, within days after the fire, residents were permitted to register for short, escorted visits to their homes and offices, to retrieve necessary belongings.

It was further reported that even after the building was shut down, Mr. Sweeney went in to a resident's apartment to retrieve $4000 in chemotherapy medicine.

Stated Plaza Mayor Jean Celender: "It is a blessing that everyone in the building at the time of the fire was able to be safely evacuated and no one was seriously hurt. There are so many to thank for their efforts in responding to this event. We owe a debt of gratitude to the 150 firefighters of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, other responding fire departments and numerous emergency response personnel for their outstanding professional assistance in handling the blaze and in providing temporary emergency shelter to our residents."

Mayor Celender added: "Once again, we are reminded of how fortunate we are in the Great Neck community and how everyone comes together to aid our residents in a time of need. All of our village staff has been working hard around the clock to coordinate efforts with the building management, to keep residents informed, and to respond to myriad questions and requests for assistance to the residents of 5 Schenck Avenue. All further inquiries are now being directed to Rush Properties at 829-8855."

At press time, a report from arson/bomb police detectives stated: "The fire caused substantial damage and the cause is undetermined but not suspicious. Fire Marshal Maickel and Laokso are continuing the investigation." Logo
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