Press-Republican

May 9, 2013

Apartment house badly damaged by fire

By FELICIA KRIEG Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Four-year-old Aiden Collins smelled smoke in his family’s apartment Wednesday afternoon.

”He said, ‘Mommy, it smells funny,’” Chelsea Bradt said.

She and her son ran outside and saw flames coming out of the second floor of the three-apartment building at 12 Goff Ave. in the City of Plattsburgh.

Bradt yelled, “The building’s on fire,” to her neighbors, who called 911.

BALL OF FLAMES

The Peru Volunteer Fire Department got there first, Plattsburgh City Fire Department Assistant Chief Randy Stone said.

His firefighters were about a mile-and-a-half in the woods fighting a wildland fire behind the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House when the call for the Goff Avenue blaze came in at about 3:40 p.m.

”I don’t know how it happened,” landlady Carla Wells said, her eyes on the building as crews tried to get the fire under control.

The fire was in the unfinished upstairs apartment that was used for storage, she said.

The gray steam-like smoke that had been rising from the roof into the blue, sunny sky turned black as an orange ball of flames erupted.

Two firefighters sprayed water on the flames from the empty lot next to the structure. Two others mounted the aerial ladder on City of Plattsburgh fire truck 289 and sawed a hole in the roof about half way between the front and rear of the building before attacking the blaze with water from above.

Then the ladder was hoisted higher so they could shift their aim.

A firefighter poured water on his head to cool off. Empty or partially consumed water bottles littered the ground next to the apartment building.

Plattsburgh City Police had blocked off Goff Street shortly after the fire call was issued; traffic on South Catherine Street moved slowly.

’FREAKING OUT’

Passers-by paused to watch as firefighters worked, some sitting on the grass in Riverside Cemetery.

Bradt watched with her hand over her mouth.

The only thing she took with her when she left her apartment was her cellphone, and she does not have renter’s insurance.

Her boyfriend, Travis Rasco, sat on a rock with Aiden in his lap.

Rasco was working at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery in Plattsburgh when he learned about the fire.

“I was freaking out,” he said. “I told my manager I had to go.”

Bradt said Aiden had been home from school with strep throat, and they were relaxing on the couch of their ground-floor apartment, watching the movie “Shrek” on television when he smelled the smoke.

Aiden had recently learned about fire safety in his preschool class at Momot Elementary School, she said.

The little boy said he was sad to see his home on fire.

”I’m afraid it’s going to drop down,” he said.

A section of roof collapsed about 20 minutes later. It caved in further a while later as firefighters sprayed water on the blaze.

SEVERE DAMAGE

Bradt said a young couple lives in the upstairs apartment.

Wells’s brother-in-law said she has insurance on the building.

Crews were still there when it started to rain in the late afternoon.

“The fire damage was to the second-floor rear of the building,” Stone said later, and that portion of the structure was a total loss.

The other two apartments sustained smoke and water damage, he said, saying the cause could have been electrical.

The fire did not appear to be suspicious, Stone said, but Plattsburgh City Police fire investigators would conduct an investigation.

Providing mutual aid to Plattsburgh along with Peru were departments from Keeseville, Beekmantown, Cumberland Head, Plattsburgh District 3 and South Plattsburgh, Stone said.

The City Fire Department was back in service at about 8 p.m.

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.com