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First Street Residents Facing New Reality After Major Fire In Rensselaer

Composite photo by Dave Lucas/WAMC

A major fire in the city of Rensselaer Tuesday evening damaged several apartments on the 1400 block of 1st Street.

The first call came in around 10 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, flames had rapidly spread.  More than 100 firefighters from six departments responded.

Five buildings were affected.

"We're so fortunate that nobody got hurt. That's the main thing."  Mayor Dan Dwyer says all residents were safely evacuated. 

City Assistant Fire Chief Jay Corcoran told WNYT it was a close call. "It was still early enough in the evening where everybody wasn't necessarily sleeping."

The fire was brought under control about an hour after it started. One fire hydrant reportedly ran dry as water lines struggled to meet demand.  Dwyer praised city police and fire departments. "If you take a look at it, the wind was starting to really howl through there, and that could have been a disaster. They controlled it beautiful. They had trouble with the attic, getting into it, but they did a fantastic job, I'm very proud of them."

Dave Lucas:  "Any plans for that property right now?"

Mayor Dwyer:  "I think it's under evaluation right now, OK, because that's federal HUD and so we're sorta left out but I'm gonna call there, the head of the department and see if there's anything we can do on that."

The buildings have been boarded up. Kimmie Venter is director of communications with the American Red Cross.     "The Red Cross was called to respond to the fire in Rensselaer on Tuesday night and initially we had provided assistance to four separate households, a total of 13 people. Eight adults and five children. We were called back again yesterday to help an additional family that had been affected, two more adults, so bringing the total to 15 people that we worked with directly to provide financial assistance for basic necessities, temporary lodging, and also just give them some emotional support to get through the whole experience."

Investigators are trying to determine a cause. They aren't ruling anything out.  Neighbors told WNYT there may have been a faulty propane tank involved.  Police say two firefighters were treated for minor injuries. No timetable has been established for allowing residents to return to their apartments to salvage any belongings that may have survived.

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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