Today’s news:

Inferno destroys 11 houses

Fire officials had yet to determine the cause of the blaze that engulfed 11 homes on a Woodhaven block last week and cast clouds of thick smoke over the neighborhood for hours.

An investigation was also still ongoing into which of the 11 homes on 96th Street by 91st Avenue was the first building to go on fire, fire officials said.

Crews were on the block Monday night, apparently looking at underground lines. Streetlights on the block were out.

Two firefighters and two civilians suffered minor injuries in the fire that swept through 96th Street by 91st Avenue last Thursday in Woodhaven, according to Battalion Chief Sal Cassano. A cat was rescued.

Heavy smoke made it difficult to see down the block for more than an hour as a crowd gathered to witness the destruction, some of them snapping pictures on their cell phones and holding camcorders.

Cassano said fire marshals were still investigating the cause of the blaze, although neighbors said it was caused by an elderly man who was smoking.

When firefighters arrived at the scene at around 1:30 p.m., the blaze had already spread to more than one home, Cassano said. It took almost two hours to extinguish, as 65 units as well as 230 firefighters and EMS workers battled the blaze, he said.

Firefighters were unsure in which home the fire had started, Cassano said, but the blaze originated in a cockloft — a space between the roof and second story — and quickly spread to multiple homes and the second floors of the dwellings. High wind gusts contributed to the fire’s spreading, he said.

“We had a lot of fire and it’s swirling,” he said. “There was so much smoke when we got there. The wind made it very difficult. The firefighters who are here did a great job.”

Cassano said power and gas to the buildings was shut off as a precautionary measure.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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