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Community aids Valley Stream fire victims

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The Wheeler Avenue School community has stepped up to help a family that lost its home in a fire last week. The Panday family was displaced after a raging fire gutted their east end house.

Flames broke out on the lower level of the home at 127 Cornwell Ave., at the corner of East Carpenter Street, at about 8:50 p.m. on Jan. 28. The fire quickly spread throughout the two-story house before firefighters got the upper hand.

All four people — two adults and two children — safely escaped. About 100 firefighters from three departments battled the blaze, bringing it under control in about 35 minutes. Valley Stream was assisted at the scene by the Hewlett and Malverne fire departments, with Elmont, Woodmere and Lawrence-Cedarhurst providing standby coverage.

Valley Stream Fire Chief John Beck said that the earliest-arriving firefighters were met with fire blowing out the front door and upstairs windows. The only part of the house that didn’t burn, Beck said, were the back bedrooms, which had extensive smoke and water damage. “They’re going to have to gut it,” he said of the house, estimating the damage at about $400,000. “There’s not much salvageable.”

The fire was deemed accidental. Beck said that it started in the kitchen on the lower level, where a cardboard box was left on a stove. He added that when members of the family left the house, they left the front door open, and the circulating air helped the fire spread.

One firefighter was treated for a minor injury.

Beck praised the work of his firefighters, who he said made a quick attack on the fire as soon as they arrived on scene. “They guys did a great job,” he said. “They got it knocked down rather quickly.”

The family has a boy in third grade at Wheeler Avenue School and a girl in kindergarten at Willow Road School. According to Wheeler Principal Dr. Gayle Steele, they were staying with family in Queens after the fire. The children were back in school on Tuesday.

PTA Co-President Stephanie Seltzer said that members are collecting cash and gift cards to help the Pandays get back on their feet. Within two days of the fire, she said, the PTA had already collected $500. “We’re definitely doing everything that we can,” she said. “We’re a family.”

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