Fire in Unionport, the Bronx, caused by fireworks; 3 charged, FDNY says

A massive fire in the Bronx that injured nine people and damaged seven buildings was sparked by two men having a “fireworks fight,” the FDNY said on Saturday.

Nabindranauth Nandalall and Shivnarine Lauchman, both 23 and from the Bronx, are each facing charges of arson, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and illegal possession of fireworks after the pair admitted to blasting off the illegal fireworks just before the fire began at 1132 Olmstead Ave. in Unionport on Thursday, fire officials said. A third person, 27-year-old Alejandro Soler, also of the Bronx, was charged with illegal possession of fireworks, they said.

“This fire is a reminder that fireworks are illegal in New York City — and as witnessed in this fire can be dangerous to both firefighters and civilians alike,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said after the arrests were announced.

The fire started just before 3:40 p.m. and quickly spread to nearby buildings, according to officials who said that by the time firefighters arrived on scene, about five minutes after the 911 call, the fire had already engulfed two homes.

The five-alarm blaze took nearly 200 firefighters about three hours to bring under control, the FDNY said. The fire gave off “tremendous heat” and firefighters battled heavy smoke conditions, FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard had said.

Several people who were on the block when the fire broke out said they thought they heard fireworks before they saw the flames.

“It sounded like a loud firecracker,” said Guillermo Acevedo, 38. “You saw smoke first. It was very quick. Then there was another explosion.”

“We heard the pop, pop, pop of firecrackers,” said Elvin Garcia, 30, who is running for City Council and has an office across the street. “The house lit up like a piece of paper, that’s how fast it happened. It’s very windy; the fire spread within seconds.”

Of the nine injured, eight were firefighters and one was a civilian, the FDNY said. One firefighter was overcome by the excessive heat and smoke and rushed to Jacobi Medical Center in serious but stable condition, officials said. He has since been released. The other injuries were non-life-threatening, according to the FDNY.

With Alison Fox