Fast-moving flames engulfed one building in the Prospect Heights section and forced the evacuation of others. On top of that, a wall collapsed.
The fire was spectacular, with flames tearing through the five-story building.
"It was unbelievable," neighborhood resident Laverne McQune said. "I have never seen anything like this before in my entire life."
The scene was dramatic, with the firefighter injured in a subsequent wall collapse. He was hurt when a piece of flying brick hit him in the face.
"At least 50 feet from the building is our collapse zone, plus an extra 50 feet because of the way the bricks fly," FDNY Deputy Chief John Mooney said. "These guys were right at that edge, they went farther than we expected."
The fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. at 816 Washington Avenue. Flames broke out on the ground level, and within minutes, the entire structure was engulfed. The fire forced the evacuation of adjacent buildings and even affected residents across the street.
"Start alarming the neighbors, wake up my family, because the heat on our side, it was so hot that I asked them if we should [evacuate]," resident Carla McQune said.
There were no serious injures. The building itself was vacant, recently cleared of squatters and set to undergo renovations. But the ground floor housed a number of stores. Merchants like laundromat owner Ali Manshuri wonder what's next.
"I have two daughters in college, all my family here," he said. "I got my son, his wife, his kid here. I mean, this is what I live here."
As the fire and buildings departments determine the best way to bring down the remainder of the structure, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.