An unidentified woman was killed yesterday when fire tore through an illegally converted basement under a Borough Park home. It took 45 minutes for 60 firefighters to extinguish the blaze at 909 57th Street, bringing it under control at 2:10 p.m. "Our units arrived within three minutes and [found] the condition to be a fire in the basement," Deputy Chief William Tanzosh told the Post. "In that bedroom we did find one female who was passed away due to the fire."
The owner of the three-story brick townhouse, Chi Chun Lo, was served with a partial vacate order in December of this year, according to city Department of Buildings records. Lo was cited for an illegal conversion; inspectors found the "residence altered, work without a permit," and, fatefully, "failure to provide an unobstructed exit." The illegal conversion was first documented in 1990.
The fatal fire underscores the potential dangers of illegal conversions; firefighters were reportedly "hampered by window bars on the basement and first floors." In 2011, two men residing in an illegal single-room occupancy apartment in Brooklyn were killed in a fire started by a hot plate. One neighbor remarked, "The walls weren't fixed. There was no fire escape. I've been in there and it was nasty. There was no facility to wash. There was nowhere to cook."