Press-Republican

November 16, 2013

Immediate action called for on burned building

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh building inspector says immediate action must be taken on the 15 Couch St. property that burned in September.

“We’ve ordered that this situation be dealt with,” said City of Plattsburgh Building Inspector Joseph McMahon. “I’m hearing that the building is likely to come down.”

That is not property owner Thomas Latinville’s only option, however, McMahon said, adding that he has been in constant contact with him.

POTENTIAL DANGER

An engineer who evaluated the structure told McMahon that while the building doesn’t necessarily pose a safety risk to the public now, it could in the near future, McMahon said.

“The engineer gave me relative assurance that nobody was in harm’s way (in the immediate future).”

However, the building is not stable.

“Structurally, the roof has been compromised, and that’s a concern,” McMahon said. “With winter approaching and the potential for snow being on the roof, it increases our level of concern.”

Latinville did not return three messages left by the Press-Republican.

NEIGHBOR CONCERNED

At the Nov. 7 Plattsburgh City Common Council meeting, Andrew Golt, who lives next to the building, told councilors he is concerned about the structure being so close to his home.

Shards of broken glass and other debris rained down on his home, he said, and he wants the building torn down soon.

“I don’t want this burned-out hulk 18 inches from my property line,” Golt said.

He also complained about several pieces of furniture strewn about the yard.

“This needs to be moved along.”

‘SO GRATEFUL’

SUNY Plattsburgh student Alexa Limato was severely injured in the fire, sustaining third-degree burns on 25 percent of her body, according to the online fundraising page Help Alexa Heal, where she and her family have been posting updates on her condition.

Earlier this month, Limato returned home from the Clark Burn Treatment Center of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where she had been receiving treatment since the Sept. 20 fire, according to a Nov. 2 post signed by Limato on the webpage.

She will continue outpatient rehabilitation at a hospital in New York City, she said.

Limato wrote that her arms and hands can “still function properly.

“As upsetting and painful as you all would assume this has been for me, I have to tell you all that I have never been so grateful for the past 21 years of life and the years to come,” Limato wrote.

“I am determined to move forward, and even this will not hold me back from my future.”

She added that she has chosen to not respond to online posts and other attempts to reach her. She could not be reached by the Press-Republican.

“It is amazing that sometimes it takes something as horrible as what I’ve been through to truly understand who is really there for you,” she wrote.

‘WOKE UP TO SMOKE’

In his job as an adult care manager at Behavioral Health Services North, Danny Johnson offers help to those who need it.

The tables were turned when he lost his home at 15 Couch St., he said.

Johnson woke up that night to smoke in the bedroom of his second-floor apartment.

“I was the person that was knocking on doors, that was trying to get people out.”

After he made it outside, he watched the building burn with all his possessions inside.

He is still looking for his two calico cats, Happy and Content.

Firefighters told him they didn’t find the remains of the felines.

“I lost everything,” he said.

At work, Johnson received calls from people looking to help him.

“I had this lady ... she had heard about the fire, and she donated a whole complete bedroom set to me,” he said. “It was amazing.”

The Store Tavern in Plattsburgh held a benefit to help Johnson with expenses, he said.

He also expressed his gratitude to the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross, which provided him with basic necessities and a motel room to stay in until he was able to find a place to live.

“It’s overwhelming the support and help they (Red Cross) give.”

‘BACK ON FEET’

Like Johnson, SUNY Plattsburgh senior Alex “Oliver” Bender watched 15 Couch St. burn the night of the fire; he also lost all the belongings in his apartment.

Bender said he believes he was the only one living in the building with renter’s insurance.

“I got my check back. I’m finally just starting to get everything back together.”

He purchased a new couch and bed this week.

Right after the fire, he stayed in a SUNY Plattsburgh dormitory room for several days until he was able to find another apartment.

Organizations at the college were able to raise money for those affected by the fire, he said.

“It made me feel great,” Bender said. “I never expected the community to go so far out of the way (to help).”

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg

+++++

HOW TO HELP 

To donate to Help Alexa Heal, go to youcaring.com.