Breezy Point, Queens looks forward after devastating fire following superstorm Sandy

Breezy Point
This aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough New York after a fire on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012.
AP Photo/Mike Groll

(CBS News) There is much more than water damage in New York City in the wake of superstorm Sandy. There was a devastating fire on the Rockaway Peninsula where much of a neighborhood burned down early Tuesday morning. The blaze left 111 homes burned to the ground, 20 more were heavily damaged.

Not a single building on Breezy Point, Queens, has been left unscathed - first by the storm surge that rolled in and battered the community and then by the fire that ravaged blocks and blocks of homes on the barrier island.

The six-alarm fire that tore through the tiny beach town was the wake-up call nobody wants to receive.

Volunteer firefighter Danny McKeefrey rushed to the scene. His brother's house was fully engulfed. Both were among the 200 firefighters called into battle as the wind-whipped flames jumped from house to house.

Danny McKeefrey said, "Everything was on fire. Flames were 50 feet up in the air. Just taking everything out. There's no stopping it."

His mother, Joanne McKeefrey's house was destroyed by the storm surge. It was on the opposite side of the island on Jamaica Bay and was still knocked off its foundation. Of Joanne McKeefrey's eight children, four lost homes in Breezy Point, three by storm surge, one by fire.

Breezy Point is a close-knit neighborhood with many firefighters and police officers among its residents.

Catherine Sullivan lived nearby in the Rockaways, another community that saw fire hopscotch from home to home. Sullivan said, "Say your prayers for us. That's what you can do, prayer. We are all devastated from this. I don't have words to tell you, but I know we will come out of this."

Breezy Point lost 37 residents in 9/11. More died next door in Bell Harbor a few months later when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed. But even with this latest tragedy, many told CBS News they are not leaving. They will rebuild.

Danny McKeefrey said, "My whole family lost everything, but we'll figure it out. We have to. There is nowhere else to go."

There were no serious injuries in the fire, but the fire is now being called among the worst in New York City history.