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Minor fire damages Queens Village apartment

Four people were taken to Queens Hospital Center after sustaining minor injuries in a fire that severely damaged one apartment in the second section of the Hilltop Cooperative in Queens Village Monday afternoon, fire officials and residents said.

The fire began just after 12 p.m. on the fifth floor of the building located at 87−40 Francis Lewis Blvd., which has about 50 apartments and seven floors, superintendent Angel Hernandez said. Some 300 people live in the building, though many were away because of the Presidents Day holiday, according to David Weiss, the vice president of Hilltop Cooperative No. 2.

The entire building, one of nine in the complex on the border of Hollis and Queens Village, was evacuated around noon, Weiss said. Firefighters arrived at the scene not long after the building was evacuated, Weiss said.

“We have elderly, handicapped and children here, so we wanted to evacuate the building,” Weiss added.

The fire damaged much of apartment B58. Smoke damaged an apartment on the fourth floor, directly below B58, and two units on the sixth floor, Hernandez said.

Fire officials did not have the names of the individuals taken to the hospital, and residents said they were unsure as to who was injured. Hernandez did say he believed those taken to the hospital went primarily for breathing problems due to the heavy smoke.

“I was enjoying my day off with my baby and my boyfriend before the fire,” said Daphne Demosthene, 20, who lives on the sixth floor. “We looked in the stairwell, and it was pitch black with smoke.”

Demosthene, who has lived in the same building since she was 6, said there had not been any other big fires similar to the one on Monday.

“I’ve lived here for 16 years, and this is the first fire we’ve had here,” Weiss said.

Officials have not yet identified the cause of the fire.

“We’re always concerned about fires in our buildings,” said Marc Haken, the president of Hilltop Cooperative No. 4 and a member of Community Board 8. “In all our buildings, we have walls and doors that are fire resistant for about an hour. Unfortunately, things inside the apartment are not fireproof.”

Everyone in the co−op is required to have fire insurance, which Haken said is required for situations exactly like this.

“This is going to be tens of thousands of dollars in damage,” Haken said. “It’s the shareholder’s responsibility for restoring their apartment to the condition it was in.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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