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FDNY: Children Playing With Matches Cause Of Staten Island Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A massive fire that destroyed several homes and left dozens homeless on Staten Island  was accidentally started by children playing with matches, according to the FDNY.

The blaze broke out around 6 p.m. Thursday at a home on Benzinger Avenue and spread to two adjacent houses. Residents were covering their faces as flames ripped through the buildings.

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

The 6-alarm fire was so hot that it melted the siding off the homes across the street. Power lines were even engulfed in flames.

"These houses are so connected together and the landlord is putting so many people in these houses that there's no room," one resident said.

It took firefighters more than three hours to get the blaze under control. Two homes were destroyed in the fire and two more were severely damaged with soaked floors and cracked windows. Three others sustained less serious damage.

Firefighters were also forced to cut power as one of the engulfed homes was in danger of collapsing. It is unclear if sparking electrical wires started the fire, but officials said it certainly elevated the danger.

"It impacted our operations a lot and it's a very dangerous operation we had," FDNY Deputy Chief David Maj said.

Latoya Samuels believes the fire started on her porch.

"My daughter grabbed her little sister and I grab the three boys, started running down the steps, skipping steps and out the door," she told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

Three people and 20 firefighters suffered injuries.

The Red Cross says it's assisting at least 55 people, including 20 children, who were displaced by the fire.

The chiildren who were playing with matches will be enrolled in the Juvenile Fire-Setters Intervention Program, according to the FDNY.

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