The fire broke out on Westchester Avenue in the Parkchester section just before 6:30 a.m. Thursday, right near the elevated subway tracks.
More than 145 firefighters worked to put out the flames. While no one was injured in the fire, an FDNY EMT was assaulted at the scene.
FDNY Chief of EMS Operations Lillian Bonsignore could barely contain her anger and released a statement calling the incident, “unbelievable and despicable.”
“We are out here ready to save the lives of the people who depend on us, out in the freezing cold while our firefighters are fighting this fire,” she said.
Bonsignore says the female EMT was flagged down by someone who said they were in need of help. The EMT saw the man collapsing on the sidewalk.
As she approached the 52-year-old man to help, she was assaulted, inappropriately grabbed, and held. Bonsignore said one of her coworkers had to help her break out of that situation.
“It is disgusting and inappropriate. EMS is always here to save your life, always here to help you no matter what the situation, no matter who you are or where you come from, we are here, ready to assist,” Bonsignore said. “None of our people should have to come to work and deal with a situation like that. Thankfully, NYPD was able to apprehend this particular person, he is in custody at this moment. Our EMT is being followed up with and supported thoroughly by the Fire Department and NYPD. I want to just remind everybody that assaulting EMS members is a felony. We will not tolerate it, we will follow through 100% and we support the full prosecution of anybody who puts their hands on an EMS member. EMS is here to save your lives, let’s take care of them.”
The fire appears to have started in a 99-cent store. Heavy smoke spread over the neighborhood and across an adjacent elevated subway line, where passing trains were slowed.
At least seven stores were completely gutted.
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