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Vacant House Fire in New Scotland Ruled Accidental

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

NEW SCOTLAND, NY - A vacant house fire on an arctic January night in the Town of New Scotland was ruled accidental. 

Fire crews were called to 69 Miller Rd. in the Town of New Scotland around 10:30 P.M. on Friday, January 19th, for reports of a structure fire.

Lieutenant Sean Fitzmaurice of the New Salem Fire Department was the first arriving fire officer on scene and reported heavy fire coming from the rear corner of the home and declared a Signal 30 working structure fire. He said the first arriving apparatus was a tanker from New Salem Fire, and crews deployed hose rolls and stretched a line and began pumping with their tanker to begin their initial fire attack.

Additional engines began to arrive and a supply line was laid from a fire hydrant on New Scotland South Road and stretched up Miller Road to the scene. The fire hydrants in that area were installed within the last two to three years, he said.

“When I pulled up I initially called for tankers not thinking that we actually had hydrants over there because I’m not used to having hydrants,” he said.

Fitzmaurice said the home was an old barn that was converted into two apartments.

The one apartment had been vacant and the occupants in the second apartment were recently evicted and had just officially moved out the day before the fire occurred, so nobody was residing inside the house at the time of the fire. 

Firefighters fought this fire with very cold temperatures that night.

“It was about five degrees and with the wind chill, it had to be hovering zero,” he said. “Luckily the wind had died down until afterwards once the fire was out.”

Crews deployed ground ladders on the front and rear of the structure which were quickly unable to be used as they became completely covered in ice. Firefighters had difficulty turning off air packs due to ice buildup. They also faced challenges rolling up some of the hose, as it quickly began to freeze after the fire.

A water pipe burst inside the kitchen area of the home and began to flood the rear portion of the home with a couple feet of water, according to Fitzmaurice.

The burst pipe weakened a portion of the floor and one lieutenant from one of the fire departments on scene fell into a hole in the weakened floor during the overhaul process and was quickly removed by another firefighter, according to Fitzmaurice. He said the firefighter was not injured.

Another firefighter from another department was also treated and released on scene for smoke inhalation.

Agencies on scene and on standby included New Salem, Onesquethaw, Voorheesville, Slingerlands, North Bethlehem, Berne/East Berne, Knox, Altamont and Elsmere fire departments, Town of Bethlehem FAST Team, Albany County Sheriff’s Ambulance, Albany County Paramedics, Albany County Sheriff’s, New York State Police.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down in under one hour, with an extensive overhaul process to rip layers off the walls to chase where the fire had extended.

There were no other injuries that required any transport to any hospitals.

The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental from a baseboard heater that was left on inside the house. Fitzmaurice said it could not be determined if there was anything left on the heater, or if it was an electrical issue or not, but was ruled down to the heater.

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THOMAS MARRA Correspondent

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