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Bronx fire roars through Irish business, apartment

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

A three-alarm fire tore through a Bronx apartment building last week, gutting two Irish-owned businesses, damaging a neighboring store and leaving three immigrants homeless.

The blaze ripped through to the roof of the three-story mixed residential and commercial building on Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn, damaging an insurance agent’s office and a travel agency, said Frank McCarton, a New York City Fire Department spokesman.

The cause of Wednesday evening’s fire, which left five firefighters with minor injuries, remains under investigation, McCarton said.

Tracey McNelis, who works for Woodlawn Travel, said she had just closed the business for the evening at around 7 when somebody started banging on the door warning her about the fire.

"We dialed 911 from the office and somebody came in with plastic sheets to cover up the computers," she said.

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Fortunately, all the occupants were out when the fire started — except for a pet Greyhound dog trapped on the second floor, she said.

"He was right against the window. The window was open a little, and he pushed it with his paw and jumped," McNelis said. A bystander caught the dog as it leapt to safety, she said.

Mairead McGurk, who owns Woodlawn Travel, said although the office equipment had been damaged by water, many of the company’s records and tickets had been salvaged. The office was still in operation, she said.

Although the next-door Aqueduct North bar was only slightly damaged and remains open for business, Sean’s Quality Deli on the other side was also burned.

Peter McInerney, a construction worker who lived on the second floor, has been sleeping on a friend’s couch since the fire. The Cavan man, who lived with two friends in an upstairs apartment, said his sister and a friend who had been visiting from Ireland also lost their passports and tickets in the blaze.

"We’re trying to get some money for clothes. We lost everything," he said.

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