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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fire Devastates Rebounding Community

A row of businesses on Jerome Avenue were destroyed by a fire last Friday. (Photo by David Greene)

The neighborhood of Burnside, which has enjoyed a sort of renaissance and building boom in recent years, suffered a major setback last week as a row of stores burned down along the bustling shopping corridor of Jerome Avenue.

According to officials from the FDNY, the fire broke out inside a laundromat at 2081 Jerome Avenue at 9:53 a.m., on Friday, April 29

The blaze continued to rage, prompting officials to declare four-alarms and requiring 168 firefighters, who remained on the scene long after the blaze was brought under control at 2:12 p.m.

The fire destroyed six businesses: the Bronx Eagle Cafe restaurant, a barber shop, a children's store, a beauty salon, a locksmith and the laundromat where it began. A nearby nail salon and the MARC Academy Pre-K and After School Program suffered smoke and water damage.

Sa Chu, an employee of, "Red Nails," was back at work Sunday. A generator was being used to dimly light the shop, giving off a romantic atmosphere if not for the smell of the thick smoke.

"We all get the same power from the basement and now there's a lot of water down there, so Con Edison had to do their job and turn the power off," Chu explained. The nail salon and school remain without gas, electric or running water.

"We're trying to keep the generator going," she continued, as about a half dozen customers were being tended to in the shop. "The problem is money and if we close, when we do open, we lose the customers. We live by the customers, so that's why we're trying and stay open."

The nail salon owner was forced to tell several employees to stay home.

Anna York, the executive director of the MARC Academy said the school remained closed the Monday after the fire. The school serves 106 pre-school students and 60 elementary school children.

"We have damage to two classrooms, primarily water and smoke damage, and the ceiling needs repairs," York said. "What I'm trying to do right now is try and get permission from the Department of Health to relocate temporarily to a neighboring community-based organization, while the sprinkler system is fixed."

Instead of preparing for an open house and health fair, York would be meeting with officials from the Department of Buildin's. Meanwhile, parents have been offering their help, along with Community Board 5 District Manager Xavier Rodriguez, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, the Office of Emergency Management and the New York City Small Business Administration.

"It's a terrible thing that happened, and people want to know what started the fire," said neighborhood resident Jazmine Barrow. "They need to figure out what caused the fire, and why did it last so long."

Fellow resident Layla Banks recalled, "As soon as I got off the train, [it was] like everything was on fire and the smoke was coming all the way up to E.183 Street."

EMS officials said  nine fireman and one civilian were transported to North Central Bronx Hospital with minor injuries.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


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