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Man leaps to death escaping fire started in downstairs Brooklyn hardware store.
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The fatal fire on Flatbush Ave. near St. Marks Ave. in Brooklyn left one dead and seven injured Wednesday.

There was no way out.

A Brooklyn merchant died Wednesday morning as a fire ripped through his apartment, leaving him with only one means of escape — to leap out a fourth-story window, officials and horrified family members said.

Seven others were injured in the accidental Prospect Heights blaze, including victim Bassam Awad’s wife, who remained in critical condition at Jacobi Medical Center.

Awad’s two sons — one of whom has special needs — were also hospitalized with serious burns as was his mother, horrified family members said.

"My brother's wife is in the hospital, his sons are in the hospital,” said Awad’s brother Abdurahman Awad, 36. Awad and his brother lost their father recently, he said, fighting back tears.

“I lost my brother and I lost my dad a couple of months ago,” he said, staring at his burnt and pitted building. “I lost my property. I lost my family."

Bassam Awad owned a deli along Flatbush Ave. at St. Marks Ave. and lived in the apartment building next door, neighbors said.

The store on the ground floor of Awad’s building, Flatbush Hardware, caught fire shortly before 3:30 a.m., the FDNY said. The massive blaze was sparked by faulty electric wiring from a neon light outside the hardware store, officials said.

“We had a large volume of fire on the first floor and it was rapidly extending through shafts within the building,” said FDNY Battalion Chief Russell Regan.

“We sent firefighters to every floor and they did their searches under very difficult conditions ... high heat ... heavy smoke,” Regan said.

Awad's sister-in-law told the Daily News that he chose to jump out a window because he could not access the fire escape.

"He tried to get out from the fire escape; the flames were too big," she said, declining to provide her name.

Awad was found in the back of the home as firefighters battled the blaze and died at the scene, cops said.

His mother was rushed to the hospital for burns, said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo.

"She was the matriarch of this family,” Cumbo said. “We can only hope for her recovery."

Roughly 200 firefighters continued to battle the blaze into the 7 a.m. hour.

Christopher Nation, 48, a co-owner of Flatbush Hardware, said he woke up at his nearby apartment and was stunned to look out his window and see his business ablaze.

"I woke up and I saw smoke and heard the screaming," he said. Nation's brother and co-owner, Desmond, said he grew up with Awad and his family.

"It's devastating, absolutely devastating," he said. "It's always tragic when there's a loss of life, but it hits home for me. Although we were not blood family, he was still family to me. We basically grew up together."

Awad's father, he said, owned the building and in the late-1980s rented the storefront to Nation's father.

"His father gave my father an opportunity to do something. We were two families living the American dream," said Nation.

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New York Weather Forecast, NY (10021)

  FDNY In The News

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