A six-alarm fire swept through a huge swath of Columbus Avenue on Saturday, taking the lives of eleven souls, injuring dozens more, and destroying scores of homes and businesses. Firefighters from seven different Manhattan ladder companies responded to the fire, which was said to have caused upwards of 100 million in damages.
“I think the last time I seen (sic) a fire like this was back in ‘85. They called it the ‘85 blaze,” said Columbus avenue resident Randy Hitler (no relation!) “That was a doozy, but in terms of sheer square footage and whatnot, this one really spread out far. It almost got the whole block! It just kept on leaping from store to store…apartment to apartment. Praise God that more weren’t killed. It was awful.” Hitler said.
Amidst the searing flames, thick smoke, and incomprehensible destruction, there was one beaming face. And that was the face of four-year-old fire engine-loving Aiden Collins.
“I cannot remember a day that little Aiden has enjoyed more thoroughly than last Saturday,” beamed the boy’s mom, Denise Collins.
“He got to drive his fire engine all suited up in his fire jacket, to an actual fire! Then, once he got there, all of his favorite fire trucks were there! The turntable ladder truck was there. The tiller ladder truck was there. The rescue pumpers were there. He was really enjoying himself,” said Ms. Collins.
Snacks and drinks were brought to Aiden throughout the fire, which burned all day and well into the night.
“We let him stay up a little bit later than usual, so he wouldn’t miss the arrival of different fire trucks. One of the trucks actually caught on fire and had to be towed away, so not only did he see his favorite fire trucks, but he saw some fire truck tow trucks, which was a new thing for him. Oh, and the ambulances! Who knew there were so many different types of ambulances?” said Aiden’s father, David Collins.
“People were all very nice, for the most part,” said Mr. Collins. “But there were a few salty firefighters who weren’t willing to answer Aiden’s questions. And some of the people streaming out of the building could have been a little friendlier. At one point Aiden asked if he could pet the dog belonging to one of the men whose clothes were on fire, and the guy kind of ignored my son at first. Is that sort of thing necessary? I mean, my son loves dogs too! Who doesn’t let a kid pet their dog? And then a little later, Aiden asked if he could touch one of the fire engine’s air horns, but a firefighter getting oxygen was in the way and wouldn’t move, and then even tried to make some excuse up about dead bodies being in the way!” Except for those instances, people were pretty friendly I suppose,” added Collins.
The fire destroyed as many as fourteen places of business, and left several without homes. One of those businesses, Kid-land, was a favorite of little Aiden’s.
“I asked one of the firefighters to direct more water at Kid-land, explaining that my boy really liked that store and would be very sad if it were gone, but he wasn’t quite as receptive as I had hoped,” said Collins.