[UPDATED: Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 10:45am] The NYPD has deemed this incident a homicide. No arrests have been made yet. The investigation continues.
EAST FLATBUSH – A 64-year-old man living in a basement apartment of an East Flatbush home was killed this afternoon when a massive fire swept through the building, fire officials said.
The man, identified by his brother as Hugh Kirkland, was found in the smoke-filled basement at 409 Est 96th Street by firefighters at 1:55 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
An infant was taken to Brookdale University Medical Center suffering from smoke inhalation, but was expected to be ok, officials said.
Christopher Kirkland, who said he had lived with his brother in the basement apartment for more than 30-years said he was outside his car when he saw people running out of the house and then saw the smoke.
“I tried to go in the front door but there was too much smoke so I ran around the back, Kirkland said. “When I got to the back, I wet my scarf and tried to go in, but it was hot, smoky and pitch black. I had to pull out.”
Deputy Assistant Chief Joseph Ferrante said they received numerous calls of a fire in the basement with “people trapped.”
He said firefighters encountered heavy smoke coming from the front door and basement of the house and initially had trouble accessing the basement because there was heavy clutter leading to the basement.
“There was a ladder, boxes, a baby carriage, and other debris in the way so firefighters had to clear the way to get to the basement,” Chief said. “Areas of egress should be kept clear – storing things in the hallways is the worst possible place for a fire.”
Chief Ferrante said when units arrived, they heard smoke detectors going off throughout the building, so occupants had time to exit.
“It is always more challenging to enter a building and get to a basement that is fully involved,” Chief Ferrante said. “There was blinding smoke and obstructions baby carriage, boxes and that makes it more difficult.”
Chief Ferrante said he could not confirm the identity of the victim who was still in the basement after the fire was extinguished and he could not say where the victim was at the time of the fire, except to say “the fire had burnt down to the floor, so it is hard to say.”
A massive fire destroyed the same house nearly two years ago December according to residents, but nobody was hurt in that fire. Chief Ferrante was not aware of the previous fire and said marshals would be investigating that and the cause of this latest fire.