An electric malfunction caused the fire on Midland Avenue last Tuesday that displaced 11 people, Port Chester Fire Chief Kevin McFadden told Patch Monday morning.
The fire completely destroyed an apartment building on the top two levels as well as two businesses on the ground floor, Café Roma and Harbor Marine Canvas, McFadden said. Da Da Radice, a store next door, experienced smoke and water damage, as did Subway, which also suffered heat and fire damage.
He said the fire, which began shortly after 1 p.m., was completely extinguished by 4:30. About 150 firefighters responded to the scene, including crews from Larchmont, Mamaroneck, White Plains and Stamford. Two firefighters were injured. One was treated for smoke inhalation, while another suffered a bruised shoulder from a fallen object. Officials are still investigating the fire, which began in the rear of the building on the ground floor, McFadden said.
More than 100 spectators watched on Tuesday as heavy, dark smoke, billowed from the top two floors of the building as firefighters on the roof and surrounding the building battled the blaze.
Village Trustee John Branca, who was in DaDa Radice when the fire broke out, called 911.
"A gentleman came running in saying 'call 911, smoke is coming out of Harbor Marine Canvas,'" he said. He called and then helped store owner Daniel Radice, 80, evacuate from his home behind the store, which has been a village fixture since the 1930s. Branca also evacuated people who had come into the store because the smoke outside was so bad.
Moments later, firefighters arrived.
"At that point in time it was just a little bit of smoke, but then it blew up... 'boom!' It just went crazy," Branca said.
"The response was tremendous," Branca said of fire crews’ arrival at the scene.
Police Officer John Bykowski was one of the first on the scene, with Officer Thomas Krempe. By the time they arrived all the people in the businesses had already evacuated, Bykowski said. Climbing the stairs, he found a woman with her baby coming down and escorted them out of the building.
Josabel Carcamo, who lives in the apartment building with his wife, said he was at work when the fire started. He said his wife escaped the fire uninjured, but declined to provide further details on the incident.
Carcamo and his wife will be among four families staying at the Carver Center until they find permanent shelter.
Carolyn Sherwin, a spokesperson for the Red Cross, said the organization “will work with all the families through the recovery process."
The Red Cross will provide the families with financial assistance to replace items lost in the fire. The organization also will use referrals from outside agencies to find them apartments, Sherwin said.
She said mental health volunteers are available to help the families cope with the aftermath of the fire.
The families are already getting offers for places to stay, Sherwin said. Two of the women who lost their apartments will be staying with friends while they look for a permanent place to live.
Anyone interested in donating to the families can visit http://www.westchestercounty.redcross.org or call 914-946-6500.