Arson charges follow 5-alarm Olmstead Ave. fire

Firefighters combated a five-alarm fire which injured nine people and damaged six homes.

Three men were arrested last week in connection with illegal firework use that led to a five-alarm fire in Unionport that left almost two dozen residents homeless.

FDNY Fire Marshalls arrested the trio following a lengthy investigation at the scene.

Nabindranauth Nandalall, 23, and Shivnarine Lauchman, 23, both of the Bronx, were charged with fourth-degree arson, a class E felony, reckless endangerment and fourth-degree criminal mischief, both class A misdemeanors, and unlawful dealing with fireworks, a class E felony.

The men admitted to having what they called a “fireworks fight” using illegal fireworks they purchased from an unnamed Westchester retailer.

The third defendant, Alexander Soler, 27, also of the Bronx, was charged with illegal possession of fireworks.

“This fire is a reminder that fireworks are illegal in New York City – and as witnessed in this fire, can be dangerous to both firefighters and civilians alike,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

The blaze started at 1136 Olmstead Avenue on Thursday at around 3:40 p.m. when two of the defendants, allegedly began shooting fireworks at each other behind the home.

The fireworks caused the wood frame house to catch fire.

The fire then spread to six other homes and several parked vehicles in the area between Haviland Avenue and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Both 1136 and 1136 Olmstead were a total loss.

A total of 44 FDNY units responded to the fire, and managed to bring it under control at around 6:30 p.m.

Seven firefighters were injured with non life-threatening injuries, while another suffered serious injuries and was transported to Jacobi Medical Center where he was later released.

One resident also sustained a non life-threatening injury.

The American Red Cross providing emergency assistance to nine households – 20 adults and five children, according to a Red Cross spokesman.

Community Board 9 chairman Nicholas Himidian Jr. said illegal fireworks use is a problem that rears its head every summer as Independence Day approaches.

While the city runs public service announcements about illegal fireworks, he said they do little to deter the problem.

“It’s sad. Now we’re talking about 20 people being displaced and firefighters who are injured,” he said. “Now you have families that are struggling to put their lives back together. And it could have been a lot worse.”

CB 9 district manager William Rivera, a former FDNY EMT, lives in the neighborhood where the fire occurred but was away on vacation when it happened.

He said the toll such a fire can take on a family can be staggering, since in addition to irreplaceable personal belongings they also lose identification records.

“It’s tough to start all over again because you have to get a Social Security card again and a birth certificate. To get a new driver’s license you need a certain amount of (identification) points,” he said.

Rivera cautions residents to make sure their home insurance policy includes nights in a hotel in event of a fire, and urged them to make sure smoke detectors are installed and working.

He reminded residents the FDNY and American Red Cross distribute and install free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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