PLATTSBURGH — Climbing through the third-floor window of the burning eight-unit house, Firefighter Matt Barrett couldn’t see the woman he knew was there somewhere.
To his huge relief, his gloved hand found her head.
“Then I got down close to her face, and I could hear her breathing,” he said.
Flames rolled through the thick black smoke in the apartment at 15 Couch St., and the City of Plattsburgh firefighter knew flashover was just a few minutes away.
Below, firefighters Ryan Sponable and Mike Bonner kept hoses pointed at the room, buying precious time for Alexa Limato, who’d been leaning out of the window when the first city truck arrived.
She’d seemed on the point of jumping, those first firefighters thought. They told her to hold on, that rescue was coming quickly.
But by the time Barrett arrived on a second truck, just moments later, she had collapsed inside the apartment.
Friday afternoon, Limato was at Clark Burn Center at Syracuse Upstate University Hospital, where she had been taken by helicopter from CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh.
The SUNY Plattsburgh student, 21, was listed in serious condition there in early evening, an improvement from an earlier report that she was stable but critical.
She was one of 11 tenants in the white, wood-frame apartment house owned by Thomas Latinville; one of them had smelled smoke and run through the building, pounding on doors, waking people up and alerting them to the danger, City Police Lt. Patrick Rascoe said.
Giancarlo Pecora, 21, lived alone in a first-floor apartment at 15 Couch. He had been out downtown Thursday night and, walking home at around 1:45 a.m., saw the apartment building in flames.
“It was just ablaze,” he said Friday, about eight hours after the fire.
“I just started running towards it, and everyone was in the street freaking out.”