Staten Island house fire kills 1, injures 14 others amid storm

A raging fire inside a Staten Island home left one person dead and 14 others injured — including the dead man’s brother — as heavy snow blanketed the city Thursday, officials said.

The blaze began inside the two-story house on Post Ave. near Heberton Ave. in Elm Park at about 7 a.m., officials said.

“I heard children screaming outside,” said Wendy Neuhalfen, 53, who lives across the street. “I thought they were out playing in the snow. But then I kept hearing them, so I looked out and saw the first floor was engulfed in flames.”

“I jumped out and ran across the street in my pajamas,” she said. “I saw my neighbor outside calling 911. It’s just shocking. I can’t believe it.”

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Within an hour, the fire grew in size and drew 140 firefighters — with falling snow piled high on their helmets.

The blaze raged for nearly three hours before it was put under control around 10 a.m., officials said.

Neuhalfen said she moved her car, which was parked in front of the burning home, so firefighters could gain better access to the fire.

As she did, she saw the father of the screaming children — who had gone out to get coffee — racing through the snow.

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“He began running,” Neuhalfen said. “He wanted to make sure (his kids) got out.”

FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said a man living in the home died at the scene.

“Unfortunately we did lose a gentleman and that gentleman’s brother is in critical condition,” Nigro said during a press conference about Thursday’s snowfall.

“A great deal of fire met the firefighters when they got there,” he said. “They made a very brave interior attack in the fire. A number of firefighters were injured, none seriously.”

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The dead man’s 69-year-old brother remained in critical condition at Staten Island University Hospital North’s burn unit, officials said.

A second victim was listed in serious but stable condition at the same hospital, officials said.

Paramedics took a 12-year-old girl, two men ages 43 and 26, and an 11-year-old boy to Richmond University Medical Center, where they were treated for scrapes and smoke inhalation.

A seventh victim was treated at the scene.

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Six firefighters and one EMT also suffered injuries — one sustaining serious injuries, officials said.

The deceased victim’s name was not immediately disclosed.

Neighbors feared the person is an elderly disabled man who lived on the top floor of the building.

“We were out there giving water, juice, talking to the tenants, trying to find the elderly man,” Neuhalfen said.

“I was very scared,” she added. “I knew there were kids in there. I knew there were elderly people, a couple of them are disabled.”

It was not immediately clear what sparked the early morning blaze.

Nigro said the heavy snowfall did not slow down responding firefighters.

“The response time to that fire was less than three minutes. The firehouse is quite close to the location,” he said. “It can take a little longer to stretch hose lines in the snow and get ladders in position. So we did put extra firefighters on duty to cover for that.”

With Larry McShane

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