Staten Island fire started by children playing with matches, FDNY says

Twenty firefighters and three civilians were hurt in the fire, the FDNY said.

Children playing with matches sparked a six-alarm fire on Thursday that displaced 10 families and ravaged homes in the St. George community on Staten Island, according to the FDNY and the Red Cross.

The FDNY said fire marshals have deemed the fire accidental.

The fire broke out on Benziger Avenue at 6:09 p.m. and spread to adjacent homes, according to the FDNY. A total of seven houses were affected, including two adjacent homes that suffered fire damage, the FDNY said.

About 250 firefighters fought the massive blaze, with the help of the NYPD’s aviation unit, bringing the fire under control at 9:05 p.m. Twenty firefighters and three civilians were hurt in the fire, the FDNY said, adding that all injuries were minor with the exception of one civilian, who suffered serious injuries but is in stable condition.

The fire conditions were so heavy that the heat melted siding on buildings across the street from the burning homes, FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard said.

Red Cross spokesman Michael de Vulpillieres said that 12 families — about 55 people, including at least 20 children — registered for assistance. Of those affected, 10 families needed emergency housing and were put up at local hotels.

Red Cross caseworkers were meeting with affected families Friday to discuss longer-term housing options. The organization is also providing affected residents with emergency funds for food and clothing.

The FDNY said the children involved in starting the fire will be enrolled in the Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Program, which is run by the Bureau of Fire Investigation.

The program both educates and evaluates children up to the age of 12 who have been found to engage in fire play, according to the FDNY.

Jamie Reysen