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Fire Rips Through 7 Houses On Staten Island; 12 Injured

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An extra-alarm fire swept through seven houses, and left 12 people injured or sick, on Staten Island Thursday evening.

The fire broke out just after 6 p.m. at 228 Benziger Ave. in the St. George section of Staten Island, according to the FDNY. It took until about 9:30 p.m. for firefighters to get the blaze under control.

Two of the homes were destroyed in the fire, and two more were severely damaged, the remaining three sustained less serious damage. But the fire left at least 42 people homeless -- 21 adults and 21 children.

Two civilians were injured in the blaze, one with minor injuries, but one with serious respiratory issues, the FDNY said. A total of 10 firefighters also suffered heat exhaustion, and some were hospitalized, the FDNY said.

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The fire was so hot that it melted the siding off the homes across the street. Power lines were even engulfed in flames.

As one of the houses was in danger of collapsing, firefighters warned everyone to get out of the way. The woman who lived in the house where the fire started was inconsolable.

"I came outside and I saw the house on fire from the porch," said Latoya Samuels.

When Samuels saw the flames, she had one thing in her mind -- her five kids.

"My daughter grabbed her little sister, I grabbed the three boys, and then we just started running down the steps. I started skipping steps; jumping down steps, and I was out the door," she said.

Samuels went out the door and onto the sidewalk, where she watched fire tear through her and her neighbors' homes on Benziger Avenue. The five-alarm fire spread fast, leaving dozens homeless.

"These houses are so connected together, and then the landlords are putting so many people in the houses that there's no room," a woman said.

On a crowded corner down the street, neighbors watched and worried their homes were next.

"I see all the smoke and I'm like, please don't let it be my house," said neighbor Sandra Borton.

People packed street corners as firefighters piled in to help. Many neighbors covered their faces as intense smoke billowed for blocks -- making it hard to breathe.

"My eyes hurt," one boy said.

The heavy smoke clouding the air was a worry all night.

"It's debilitating on our firefighters. It's debilitating on residents," said FDNY Chief James Leonard.

And everyone was hurting for the people with no place to go.

"I just have this on and the kids -- I don't have nothing," said Samuels.

Samuels was counting on her community to help her get through the tough time, and counting her blessings, knowing everyone escaped the scary, chaotic scene safely.

Samuels said her landlord was at her house doing work minutes before the fire broke out on her porch. CBS2 had not reached the landlord late Thursday, and the FDNY had not confirmed the information.

The American Red Cross Greater New York responded to the scene and was assisting the dozens of families that were displaced.

Meanwhile, about 250 firefighters remained at the scene late Thursday, and red tape warning of hazardous materials was strung up.

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