‘Collyer’-style hoarding may have caused Friday’s Court Street fire

‘Collyer’-style hoarding may have caused Friday’s Court Street fire
Photo by Paul Martinka

Six people were injured — though two were heroically rescued — as a massive fire ripped through a Court Street building on Friday morning — a blaze that was fueled by years and years of hoarding, officials said.

An FDNY spokesman said the 7:40 am fire quickly spread through the three-story building at the corner of Garnet Street, home of Botanica de la Milagrosa, which sells Christian statues and other religious items.

Battling back heavy flames, Firefighter Nathanael Igbowu of Red Hook’s Ladder Company 131 saved a man who was trapped on a second-floor fire escape. He and his fellow smoke eaters also rescued building owner Milagro Vasquez, who was found unconscious in her second-floor apartment.

“When we pulled up, there was a man on the fire escape,” Igbowu told reporters. “He came down with me on the drop ladder and then he tells us his wife was still inside, so I went through the window, found her and pulled her out.”

Vasquez, her husband and four others were treated for smoke inhalation and light burns at both Long Island College Hospital on Amity Street and New York Methodist Hospital on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. Five firefighters also sustained minor injuries as they battled the blaze, which was under control in a half hour.

It remained unclear what caused the blaze by late Friday, but a FDNY spokesman claimed the Court Street fire had “Collyer’s Mansion” traits — a reference to the infamous brothers were found dead inside their Harlem brownstone in 1947 amid 130 tons of newspapers, magazines, books and furniture they had squirrelled away throughout their lives.

An excessive amount of furniture and other combustible items were found throughout the second and third floors, the spokesman said.

Fire marshals were looking into the possibility that a faulty air conditioner — which was probably turned on for the first time in months because of Friday’s unseasonable 70-degree weather — may have sparked the blaze.

An exhaust vent recently added to the building could have also caused the fire: according to the Department of Buildings, Vasquez installed the vent in 2009 without a permit. But he needed that vent to answer another summons — that one for illegally working on religious statues, which generated a lot of dust, city records show.

Firefighter Nathanael Igbowu of Ladder Company 131 pulled one of the two people trapped in the Friday morning blaze at the corner of Court and Garnet streets.
Photo by Paul Martinka