ALBERTSON - Authorities say 50 residents are displaced after a large fire broke out at a townhouse complex in Albertson Friday night.
The fire started shortly after 6 p.m. at 154 I U Willets Road. A Nassau County police officer who happened to be passing by the complex at the time spotted the flames and called 911.
Residents were evacuated as firefighters and emergency workers descended on the area to battle the flames amid the freezing temperatures. The fire spread to the building's attic due to the high winds.
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There was concern that the flames were creeping too close to overhead wires, so PSEG shut down electric to more than 1,000 customers in the area. LIRR service on the railroad's Oyster Bay line was also halted for about two hours because fire crews had to drag water hoses over the tracks to reach the fire.
Fire officials say 24 townhouse units were destroyed or damaged by the fire, but the complex's other 24 units were spared.
Authorities say that the building that received the most fire damage will have to be demolished. It's not yet known what will happen to the other townhouses.
Residents who returned home today to try to salvage their belongings found many of them to be soggy and charred. Maggie and Roy Messina, who live at the complex, say they are trying to have a positive outlook. "You just gotta take it one step at a time," said Roy Messina, who added, "It could be a lot worse."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Albertson fire officials tell News 12 that it does not appear to be suspicious.