THE GRANDFATHER'S sobs echoed off the walls of the dark, smoke-stained living room in East Germantown.
Around him yesterday afternoon was the debris of his family, whose lives were nearly taken, officials say, by an arsonist who lit a fire at the house on Coulter Street near Lena. The debris included a ruined Christmas tree, and what remained of an outfit he'd bought for his baby granddaughter.
"This is all I got. A $35 gold dress under the tree, wrapped, and a used Christmas tree from the thrift store," said the 61-year-old man, who asked to be identified only as Danny, tears rolling down his cheeks. "I'm hurt. Ain't gonna have any Christmas."
About 1 a.m. yesterday, police and firefighters were called to the house. When they arrived, police said, they found the front door and furniture inside the living room in flames.
Investigators ruled the blaze an arson, and Deputy Fire Chief Harry Bannan told reporters at the scene that fire crews have been called to the block several times.
"We have been to the property next door . . . at least 10 times. We've had two incendiary fires there. Whether these are connected is still under investigation by the Arson Task Force," Bannan told 6ABC.
Danny told the Daily News that his family has been dogged by the fires for a month. In yesterday morning's blaze, he said, he helped his wife, two other female relatives and his 4-month-old granddaughter escape the house through an upstairs window.
Bannan told reporters that firefighters rescued them from a roof. No one was badly injured, but Danny said the baby was treated and released from the hospital yesterday, and his wife and another relative were still receiving medical treatment for stress related to the harrowing incident.
He said that he and family members have lived at the redbrick rowhouse for 39 years. Smoke-damaged items filled the front porch in the aftermath of the blaze, and a board covered where the front door had been.
He said that Christmas gifts that were wrapped under the tree were ruined, and that he and his family live in fear.
"It's been going on a month . . . we keep begging for help to find out who's doing this," he said, adding that the fires appear to have been set using gasoline.
A relative, who asked not to be named, said the family believes the arsons are related to drama involving women whose children share a father.
Police yesterday said the fires remain under investigation. With less than two weeks until Christmas, Danny said he hopes he can replace the ruined gifts and have a peaceful holiday with his family.
"That tree is an old-fashioned tree," he said, sobbing. "I'm scared for my life."