Investigators call fire in Mount Vernon 'suspicious'

(11/16/03) MOUNT VERNON - A three-alarm blaze in Mount Vernon threatened scores of homes and businesses as strong winds fanned the flames. The fire broke out around noon Saturday in an unoccupied house. On Sunday, investigators called the fire "suspicious."

The blaze engulfed the building on Sandford Boulevard between South Fourth and South Third Avenues, but many of the windows had been previously boarded up in the two-story house. It is the second fire at the building in three years. This latest fire, which also heavily damaged an adjacent building, quickly went to three alarms with the entire Mount Vernon Fire Department responding. Firefighters attacked the fire from above and below, dousing the flames with thousands of gallons of water.

Three families were left homeless from the fire. Members of the American Red Cross are currently putting these families up in hotels.

One of the things working against the firefighters on Saturday was the strong wind. The smoke was billowing away, but it was pushing the water away, as well. At one point, the fire spread to the roof of a nearby paint store on South Third Avenue, threatening to ignite the highly flammable contents of that building. Firefighters were also concerned that burning embers might start fires further down the block. But the Mount Vernon Fire Department had all the flames under control a few hours after it broke out. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Firefighters in one Mount Vernon fire truck racing to the scene were involved in a motor vehicle accident. Fire officials told News 12 Westchester one civilian and one firefighter were injured in the collision.

Related Video:Strong winds cause trouble for firefighters battling blaze in Mount Vernon

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