Dyker Heights apartment fire intentionally set; woman charged with murder, officials say

A fire in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, left two people dead and others injured on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, the FDNY said. Photo Credit: @Bellznwhistlez via Twitter

A woman was charged on Friday with setting fire to her Dyker Heights apartment building and causing the deaths of two neighbors inside, police said.

Joanna Mei, 22, was charged with arson and two counts of murder one day after the deadly fire that broke out around 7 a.m. at 6709 11th Ave., according to police. The FDNY’s fire marshals had determined the blaze was intentionally started by someone.

Xi Huang, 58, and Feng Xu, 56, were killed in the raging fire, which reached two alarms before firefighters were able to get it under control, police and fire officials said. They were found unconscious and unresponsive in a third-floor apartment, according to the FDNY.


Smoke detectors in the three-story building were not working and failed to alert residents of the blaze, the FDNY said. Firefighters battled a “heavy fire condition” throughout the building, and there was “no evidence of any working smoke detectors” at the scene, according to the FDNY.

Five people, including a 4-year-old girl and a 3-month-old boy, were taken to Maimonides Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, police said. 

Heidi Pugni, 54, said the victims who survived the fire were standing on the street barefoot in their pajamas so a neighbor brought them blankets, shoes and slippers.

“I brought socks down. I gave them some water,” she said, adding that the family was scared. “It was evident that they were worried about someone. They were very distressed about it.”

Three firefighters were also injured while battling the blaze, the FDNY said.

Photo and video footage from the scene posted to social media showed FDNY ladders extended to the second and third floors of the building. Carnation Nails and Spa occupies the ground level.

Lia Mancuso, 41, said she was sleeping when her son ran into her room and told her there was a fire at a nearby building.


“I saw the flames from my backyard. I got scared, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ “ she said. “I felt so bad for the firefighters. They were so courageous. The flames were enormous.”

Nearby shop owners saw smoke coming from the apartment building when they arrived to open up their businesses.

“I saw in the morning . . . I didn’t see much, just black smoke on the building and then I took some photos and videos,” said Wilson Lliguischush, the owner of Intrepid Dry Cleaners. He said he was not asked to evacuate his property while firefighters battled the blaze.

The owner of Young’s Deli and Grocery on the corner of 68th Street and 11th Avenue said he too was opening his business when he saw “lots of smoke” and fire trucks arrive at the scene shortly after.

George Rezk, 60, has been living on the corner of 67th Street and 11th Avenue for nine years and said he was about to call 911 when the FDNY started to show up.

“We heard screaming and yelling from people in the street first and then I came down and I saw the fire department get the people from the building out,” he said. “I went to the back. I saw nothing but flames rising.”

With Rajvi Desai