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Albany residents picking up the pieces following massive fire

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan looks on as Fire Chief Joe Gregory briefs reporters about the Wednesday morning fire.
Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan looks on as Fire Chief Joe Gregory briefs reporters about the Wednesday morning fire on Grand Street.

Four buildings in Albany's historic Mansion Neighborhood were destroyed in a Wednesday morning fire.

Fire Chief Joe Gregory says the first call came just before 2 a.m. "We received multiple calls for fire in the area of Grand Street and Ash Place. We arrived at 1:57, find a heavy fire condition in the rear of three structures, three structures were fully involved at that point. The rear sections of the building were going were active fire, the fire quickly moved throughout the buildings, and eventually extended to 108. 108 Grand Street, there were three units in that building 110, 110 Grand Street, again, three units in that building. 112 Grand Street was a vacant building, a vacant structure that was registered as vacant, and 114 Grand Street, which is an occupied building. There were four units in that structure," said Gregory.

Gregory says mutual aid came from the Troy, Watervliet and Watervliet Arsenal Fire Departments.

Second ward Common Councilor Derek Johnson lives nearby.

"I was awakened the other night by smell of fire and it made me get out of my bed and open up my door and just check to see if the building was OK, which at that time I determined it wa,s and you know, I went back to sleep and I woke up in the morning to see the devastation that that fire placed on those buildings and my first thought was, everybody make it out," Johnson said.

Marissa Miglin and her roommate were top-floor tenants of the three-story building at 114 Grand Street. She says she was awakened by the sound of the fire, which she initially thought was hail.

"We actually didn't have any of our fire alarms sound, which was a little scary," said Miglin. "So we were very, very lucky that we happened to both wake up at that point in the night and make it out in time."

Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Department of General Services employees who were nearby emptying garbage bins helped residents evacuate.

"And it was through their efforts that lives were likely saved," Sheehan said. "They were able to knock on doors and get people out of these buildings and get them out safely."

Miglin, who lost her personal papers among other possessions, believes the fire may have started next door in 112 Grand, a registered vacant building.

"It wasn't a very secured abandoned house. There were people that were displaced would come and go at times," Miglin said. "We don't know if maybe someone had made a fire to stay warm or something along those lines and then it got out of hand and then they left."

The fire, under investigation, was brought under control in four hours. Sheehan says the buildings have separate owners and all four are total losses.

"The damage is extensive with roof collapse, floor collapses. This fire burned very, very, very hot, and caused extensive damage to all four structures," said Sheehan.

Fifteen residents were displaced. Everyone made it out safely. Johnson says the former tenants are receiving aid from a variety of sources.

"The Mansion Neighborhood and the Pastures Neighborhood Association have been historically supportive to residents that encounter things that are out of their control," Johnson said. "And so I look forward to us coming together and providing the support that's needed to members of our community that have experienced this travesty. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with a bank book, a bankroll that I could, you know, just dole out money, but, you know, whatever there is that I can do, I'm always willing to step up and try to get it done."

Victory Church says it will be providing $200 gift cards for the fire victims.

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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