The heroics of New York’s bravest and finest prevented the effects of a high-rise Rockaway Beach fire from becoming worse than they were. On the morning of Friday, January 12, a blaze broke out on the 11th floor of Dayton Beach Park development, 8800 Shore Front Parkway. With all hands on deck, police and firefighters from Rockaway and beyond, came through to control the fire and bring residents to safety.
At around 11:20 a.m., a fire broke out in apartment 11P of the 13-story residential co-op building. Firefighters from Engine 266 and Ladder 137, as well as police from the 100th Precinct were among the first to arrive. As firefighters worked to control the blaze and rescue residents, officers from the 100th Precinct ran into the burning building to help residents that were trapped. According to a Facebook post from the City of Long Beach Fire Department, 100th Precinct Police Officer Marc Pennetti, of Island Park, and his partner, Sgt. Brovakosi were among the first on scene. “Both officers were able to rescue a trapped occupant on the 12th floor and carry them down to the street. Both officers then rushed back into the building and rescued a second trapped victim on the 11th floor,” the post read. Pennetti and Brovakosi were among nine cops that were transported to hospitals following the fire, to be treated for smoke inhalation.
As the fire raged on, more units arrived, including officers from the 101st Precinct. Among them was Officer Glenn Ziminski, whose heroic efforts were caught on camera (see the cover photo). The Rockaway Times sat down with Officer Ziminski to hear the story behind the photo of him carrying an elderly man outside of the building. “It was a pretty chaotic scene with cops and firefighters bringing people out from the building,” Officer Ziminski, a Neighborhood Coordination Officer who has been with the NYPD for 12 years, said. Among the chaos, he could hear screams from an elderly man who was standing outside of the burning building, but still in harm’s way. “The gentleman said he recently had a stroke and he was legally blind. He couldn’t go anywhere and was standing near the building as the fire department was breaking glass and debris was falling from the windows above. I said to myself, I have to get him out of here,” Ziminski, a father of three from Suffolk, recalled. Without hesitating, the officer picked up the man and carried him over to safety inside the next building. “It was just human nature. It was the right thing to do, what most cops would do,” he said. Ziminski also credited fellow 101st Precinct officer Sergeant Berkowitz with rescuing people at the scene.
By 12:47 p.m., the fire was under control. Despite the amazing efforts of first responders, the fire showed its strength. In total, 17 people were injured, including nine cops, three firefighters and five residents—most overcome with smoke inhalation. Most of the injured have since recovered. However, one victim was in critical condition as she was taken to the hospital—91-year-old Ethel Davis, who lived on the 12th floor. Tragically, Davis died on Saturday morning. The fire also left some families displaced due to smoke and water damage in surrounding apartments. By the end of the day on Friday, they were relocated to other Dayton Beach Park apartments that were vacant.
“This was a horrible situation for the tenants there. My thoughts and prayers are with them and with the officers and firefighters that were injured,” Officer Ziminski said.
Fire Marshals have determined the cause of the fire to be an accident caused by a halogen lamp that fell too close to combustibles. A smoke alarm was not present, according to the FDNY. According to neighbors, this was an accident that could have been prevented. Many neighbors claimed that the resident of the apartment where the fire started, was a hoarder, and conditions in the apartment made it easy for the fire to spread and difficult to control. Neighbors claimed that the building had not undergone apartment inspections for a few years.
“My apartment is destroyed from the fire,” Helen Lee, who lived next door to the apartment where the fire broke out, said. “For years, I filed complaints to management about my neighbors’ hoarding. A few years back, when called for a gas leak, FDNY couldn't even open his door because of all the debris. I can barely remember the last time my apartment was inspected, I think it was a few years after Hurricane Sandy. This all could have been prevented if the proper precautions were taken earlier.”
On Sunday, a press conference was held to call out the Housing Preservation Department (HPD) for lack of oversight in providing annual apartment inspections (See Page 8 for details.)
Neighbors have started to rally for those that were impacted by the tragedy. GoFundMe campaigns have been started to raise money for the family of Ethel Davis and for resident Helen Lee, who lost everything in the fire. To donate, head to www.gofundme.com/for-the-family-of-ethel-davis and www.gofundme.com/8pd98g-house-fire-destroys-everything.
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