Press-Republican

January 30, 2013

Fire victim saved by police officers

By DENISE A. RAYMO and ANDREA VanVALKENBURG
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — A man hanging out a second-story window at 3 Morton St. was saved from flames by two Malone Village Police officers as the apartment house burned around him.

When Officers Nicholas Hebert and Nathan Preve arrived at the 3 p.m. blaze, they spotted Scott Betters dangling from a smashed-out window as smoke erupted from the fiery building.

“I went in through a porch and was able to climb out on a roof right near the window, and Officer Hebert came in shortly after I did, so I grabbed onto the male and held him from falling completely out of the window, and Officer Hebert held on to me so I didn’t fall off the roof,” Preve recounted.

As the dramatic rescue unfolded, off-duty Village Officer Brian Miller and a local firefighter rushed to their aid with ladders and climbed up to help Preve pull Betters from the inferno.

“They were able to bring him down the ladders,” Preve said between coughs as firefighters continued to battle the flames.

Betters appeared to have suffered burns and lacerations in the blaze and was taken to Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone for treatment.

FAMILIES HOMELESS

The two-story, 3,400-square-foot home, owned by Hugh McCann of Malone, housed four apartments. It is situated at the corner of Morton Street and Route 11 (Main Street), across from Flanders Elementary School.

Amanda Miller and her two sons, Bentley and Landon Boyea, lived in the west-facing apartment upstairs, and Red Pecore and his two sons, Travis and Joey Pecore, lived in the lower apartment facing west, according to neighbors, friends and relatives gathered at the fire.

A woman identified only as Lucy and her son lived in the bottom rear apartment, and Betters apparently lived in the upper rear apartment, where the fire got its start, witnesses said.

FIERY SCENE

Black smoke was pouring out of the upstairs rear of the building on Morton Street when firefighters arrived to the fire. Flames quickly erupted and devoured the south-facing windows and continued up to settle under the tin roof.

Soon, the fire was spreading across the entire roof and inching toward the west-facing side of the structure, which was built in 1950.

Malone Callfiremen and Bangor Fire Department volunteers on automatic mutual aid tapped into nearby hydrants to quell the fire. The aerial-ladder truck from Malone was brought over to fight the flames from a higher elevation.

Traffic was rerouted by Franklin County Fire Police, Village Police and State Police at Raymond Street to the east and Elm Street to the west, and backup security was called in on mutual aid from Clinton County Fire Police about 3:50 p.m.

Volunteers from Churubusco radioed that they were on their way to help.

Members of the Franklin County Cause and Origin Team were also called in from both ends of the county to determine the cause of the blaze.

Crews were still battling the flames at 5 p.m. as the stubborn fire kept moving through the building.

A cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

PREVIOUS FIRES

This was the second fire in that neighborhood in four months. An apartment house on the opposite corner from 3 Morton St., at 525 East Main St., was destroyed by fire on Oct. 26, leaving 12 people homeless.

That fire came four days after six people living at an apartment complex at 15 Jane St. were driven from their homes by fire on Oct. 22.

REWARDING RESCUE

Though Preve and Hebert suffered smoke inhalation during the daring rescue, they remained on duty, thankful their fast action helped save a life.

For Preve, a near six-year veteran of the force, Tuesday’s rescue was a first in his career.

“Helping people is always the rewarding part of the job and keeping everyone safe, and this is why I signed on for this,” he said.

“We’re ready and willing to run into the burning building if it means saving someone’s life.”

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com