Fire destroys 81st Street homes

June 21, 2012 Denise Romano
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An early morning fire has destroyed two Bay Ridge homes.

The fire broke out at 170 81st Street, on Thursday, June 21 at 3:27 a.m.

Angela Gorini Perrone, who lives on 82nd Street, directly behind the house that was on fire, woke up at about 3 a.m., smelling smoke. She searched around her home for a source, but couldn’t find anything. When she made her way to the back of the house about 20 minutes later, she saw the backyard “completely ablaze” and called 9-1-1.

“It was very strange. I explained the situation from my vantage point. There was no sound except for the crackling of fire,” Perrone recalled. “It struck me that people were still in the house, asleep. I helped 9-1-1 find the location, since I didn’t know the address.

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As Perrone was on the phone, the fire hit the deck of the property next door – 168 81st Street -and right away the back of the house burst into flames. “The telephone and cable wires hanging in between the houses started sparking and blazing. 168 [81st Street] started catching fire at the top of the house. There were embers glowing and flying through the air like a bonfire, landing on all of the houses [in the vicinity].”

When she heard the sirens approaching, Perrone woke up her landlord on the first floor and started alerting neighbors, but they were already outside. The old homes are mostly made of wood and are located close to one another, making a recipe for potential disaster.

“All nearby neighbors were hosing things down [in their backyards]. It was extraordinary that people did that. It helped contain what was already a terrible tragedy from making it worse,” she said.

The fire was contained by 6 a.m. and it was completely put out by 8 a.m., Perrone said. “They had a hard time extinguishing it because the houses are semi-attached and the driveways are narrow,” she explained.

Perrone got a lot of smoke in her house and there is debris all over the yards, but “this could have been a heck of a lot worse. I never witnessed such extraordinary efforts by the community. It was an incredible experience.”

Fire marshals are still investigating the cause of the fire, but Perrone believes it started in the backyard.

Perrone noted that some neighbors told her they had smelled smoke, then rolled over and went back to sleep. “When I was a little girl, in the Brownies, they taught us, if you smell smoke, never ever roll over and go back to sleep and that stuck with me,” she said. “Being a nosy neighbor can save a life.”

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