Eighteen children were injured, one critically, in a fire sparked by a lithium-ion battery at a home in Queens on Wednesday.
The blaze occurred in the basement of what officials say may have been a home daycare facility in Kew Gardens, Queens.
Firefighters found a large fire at 147-07 72nd Drive, and rescued 18 children from inside, according to Chief of Operations John Esposito.
Seventeen children were treated at the scene, but one child, whose age wasn’t released, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, officials said.
Video of the aftermath of the chaotic scene broadcast by NBC New York showed adults comforting young children. The Buildings Department, which didn’t return a request for comment right away, told NBC New York that the basement was being used as a daycare and a dental lab, though the space was not permitted for those businesses.
Esposito said officials were investigating whether or not the home was being used as a licensed daycare. Neither the city’s Health Department, nor the state’s Office of Children and Family Services, which both regulate childcares, had any record of the location in their public databases.
Patrick Gallahue, a Health Department spokesperson, said his office was investigating the incident. The state’s Office of Children and Family Services didn’t return a request for comment right away.
The building’s owner, Abner Arshadnia, is described as the head of Yeshiva Ohel Simcha on Linked-In, a school with a location around the corner from the scene of the fire. Phone calls and emails to the school and Arshadnia and the yeshiva weren’t returned right away.
Neighbors had expressed concerns about the house before.
“There is a one family residential property that was illegally converted into a two-family home,” a 311 caller in 2018 wrote. “This has caused a lot of traffic from strange people.”
After that complaint, DOB inspectors visited the house twice and knocked on the door but no one answered and they never inspected the building, records show.
After the fire, building inspectors issued a full vacate order on the house, due to smoke and water damage and a hole in the roof.