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Aftermath: The Jay Street Fire

City of Schenectady

A search-and-recovery mission continues at the scene of two burned-out apartment buildings in Schenectady.

It's been a week since the five-story brick buildings along Jay Street, not far from City Hall,  were ravaged by a pernicious blaze that ultimately affected about 60 people. Seven people were hospitalized, including one individual who jumped out of a five-story window to escape the intense flames.

Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen says the county has been working on the human services side to assist fire victims.    "To look at the mental health of individuals displaced by the fire, to look at their overall health, and then to look for temporary and then transitional housing for them. To this point we've helped place 42 individuals in transitional housing, working with some of our partners like Bethesda House and the Salvation Army."

On Thursday, Mayor Gary McCarthy visited the site with Congressman Paul Tonko. Both were tight-lipped when asked questions by the media.  When contacted by phone, McCarthy explained he's waiting for investigators to release a full report of their findings:   "We go the police department, Schenectady fire department, all the staff are doing an excellent job. They're being joined by the National Response Team in the local office of the ATF, working so that we'll know what happened and why it happened. Unfortunately, it's a complicated and very large scene that they have to process, so it has moved at a pace that is slower than any of us would like. It's being done in a manner to make sure nothing is missed, and at the same time, people who are on-site, doing the actual investigation in the  building, nobody's injured and we don't have any other negative effects from the event."

Investigators sifting through the debris have so far found the remains of two people who hadn't been heard from since the fire.  Schenectady Police tell local media that two sets of remains have been identified:  59-year-old resident Harry Simpson and a non-resident named Jermaine Allen, 37, who was visiting with residents of 104 Jay Street the morning of the fire.

ATF spokesman Charles Mulham:    "The investigation continues today, with more cadaver dogs at the site, searching, continuing to search, and obviously the ATF agents are there, working in conjunction with Schenectady P.D., the entire arson task force."  Several published reports have said four people perished in the inferno.   Mulham said "No, there is no confirmation at this point on that fact. A second body was recovered yesterday. At this point, two is the total number."

Mayor McCarthy says he expects investigators to be going through the buildings for "three or four more days."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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