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Neighbors Help Get Two People Out of Working House Fire in Troy

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

TROY, NY - On January 12th at 9:11 P.M., multiple calls came into the Rensselaer County Emergency Communication Center for a reported structure fire at 8 Birch Street. Callers reported an elderly couple trapped on the first-floor and heavy smoke pushing from the building.

The rescue squad, Truck 2, Engines 4, 6 and 3, and the battalion chief responded to the scene. With no medic rigs in service, the dispatcher started to call for mutual aid from Colonie EMS or Mohawk Ambulance. Engine 2, the closest engine that would have been two minutes from the scene, was out of service due to cross staffing on the medic rig that was tied up for over an hour at the hospital with a medical patient. Truck 1, the second due truck company, was also out of service as it was tied up due to cross staffing the medic rig that was tied up on a medical call. As units were responding to the scene, the dispatcher notified the battalion chief that occupants of the first-floor had been pulled to safety by neighbors.

As units crested the hill onto Eighth St., there was a visible smoke condition in the area. As the battalion chief turned down onto Birch St., he notified the dispatcher that they had a Signal 30 working structure fire with heavy smoke showing from the structure. With the rescue squad being first due out of central station, firefighters immediately deployed a one-and-three-quarter-inch hand line and firefighters from the truck company tossed a ladder to the 'Delta' side of the structure. Firefighters quickly connected to the nearby fire hydrant on scene and made a push to the second-floor where they encountered thick heavy black smoke and a heavy fire condition banked down to the floor with heavy fire pushing out the second-floor door.

Firefighters called for the hand line to be charged, and as soon as they did so, the pump operator on the rescue squad pulled the handle, charging the hand line and sending water to the firefighters on the second-floor. Firefighters on the first-floor quickly did a primary search, confirming everybody was out of the first-floor of the structure.

Firefighters on the second-floor began to make an aggressive push, driving back the heavy fire condition. As they were doing so, they began to vent the windows of the structure and vent the roof. Due to their aggressive actions, firefighters had the heavy fire condition knocked down within two minutes and began to conduct a primary search of the second-floor. Firefighters from Engines 3 and 6 arrived on scene and began to assist with conducting overhaul on the second-floor. Engine 2 finally arrived on scene after the staffing from the medic rig freed up at the hospital and went back to the station and grabbed the engine company and began to assist firefighters on scene. Firefighters on the second-floor conducted extensive overhaul, as the apartment was heavily damaged by the fire. The chief checked on the occupants of the first-floor and confirmed they were safe due to the heroic actions of two of their neighbors.

Firefighters remained on scene for an extended period of time conducting overhaul as investigators worked to determine the cause of the fire. No injuries were reported. Due to the aggressive firefighting tactics of the Troy FD, this incident was handled and brought under control in less than 30 minutes. Luckily, the two neighbors identified as Peter Whelan and Andrew Ayotte, were there to rescue the two elderly individuals from the apartment and get them to safety before they were injured by the fire.

Cross staffing is still a major issue in the city of Troy. The city of Troy FD currently has only 24 firefighters/paramedics per shift for a population of 50,000 residents and a call volume near 15,000 per year. Firefighters face the same staffing levels as the late 1980’s when calls were at 5,000 per year. Engine 2 that covers a large portion of the RPI area and Congress St. is constantly crossed staffing the medic rig from station 2, leaving the engine constantly out of service. The City of Troy still only has one full time ambulance staffed, and all of the other medic rigs are cross staffed. Also, the City of Troy only has two firefighters on the city's truck companies. With current staffing levels, the Troy FD could not handle more than one working fire in the city at any time on their own as with any working fire in the city leaves only one engine is service to handle EMS calls or any other incidents. If the city of Troy gets a working fire and more than one EMS call at the same time, the City of Troy's emergency services become crippled. The Troy FD would heavily rely on neighboring fire departments like Cohoes, Watervliet, Green Island, and the City of Albany for help that still have to handle calls in their own cities.

Currently, the City of Troy is paying a research company to see what type of changes are needed in staffing levels and services to the fire department, as the city of Troy has seen a major growth in apartment building city wide. The City of Troy's previous administration ran on replacing one of the fire stations in Lansingburgh and promised to get it done, but that promise was quickly forgotten as not even a plan for a design was presented to the taxpayers and the city's fire stations in Lansingburgh is outdated and has multiple issues. Firefighters are hoping to see an increase in staffing, added engines and ambulances, and a much-needed new fire station to help keep up with the growing city and improve the emergency services. 

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