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Power Line Falls on Firetruck as Fire Rips Through Selkirk Home

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

SELKIRK, NY - A South Bethlehem home is a total loss following a fire in February that left a firefighter stranded inside a ladder truck after a power line fell on the truck.

Fire crews were called to 147 Rarick Rd. in the Selkirk Fire District around 3:45 P.M. on Sunday, February 19th, for reports of smoke and flames visible from a home.

“When I first pulled up to the house, about three-quarters of the house was fully involved,” said Chief Tom Neri of the Selkirk Fire Department. He said the gusty winds were blowing from the rear of the home, propelling the flames throughout the home very rapidly.

“Within a five minute time period, the rest of the house was fully involved,” said Neri.

He said there was one person inside the home who evacuated, but had attempted running back inside to rescue his pets, but was stopped by neighbors to prevent him from going back inside the burning home.

The first engine arrived with only a two-person crew, with one of those crew members still going through his firefighter training classes. Two lines were pulled off and the two firefighters began hitting the fire from the exterior while the ladder truck was arriving at the scene.

“While I was trying to figure out where to position it, the wire fell down on the ladder truck which put it out of service,” Neri said.

The rest of the crew had already exited the truck before the power line fell, leaving only the driver inside, who was in the process of backing up as the line fell. The driver remained inside the truck for approximately one hour until National Grid could turn the power off.

In addition to the live power line falling on top of the ladder truck and on the ground in front of the home, crews also faced difficulty with water supply with no fire hydrants located in the area. In addition to Selkirk and Elsmere fire departments on the initial dispatch, Coeymans, Coeymans Hollow and Onesquethaw fire departments were requested to the scene with tankers.

Due to the narrow road and no place to turn around the tankers with a live power line across the road besides backing down the road for two miles, crews had to improvise to get water to the scene. The first arriving Selkirk engine had 1,000-gallons of water, followed by another Selkirk engine with 1,000-gallons, then Selkirk’s tanker with 3,000-gallons, another Selkirk engine with 1,000-gallons, followed by a tanker from both Coeymans and Coeymans Hollow, all feeding tank water to the scene.

Crews also were challenged with the roof on the home holding in additional heat, prolonging firefighting efforts. Firefighters still needed additional water after still having heat in a space between the metal roof and the shingle roof. An excavator was requested from the Town of Bethlehem Highway Department to assist in ripping the metal roof off the home.

Crews from Coeymans Hollow located a driveway from a nearby home that had access to the Coeymans Creek, so crews on that side ran a five-inch supply line with three pumps down to the creek to access additional water to send to the scene. On the other side of the power line, several apparatus from Onesquethaw and Elsmere were on scene.

Onesquethaw crews found access to the creek on their side and ran an additional supply line and pumps to supply hoselines on the other side of the home so crews could cool the propane tanks on the side of the home.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down in approximately 30 minutes, Neri said. The rest of the time was hitting hotspots while the excavator was tearing off the metal roof.

Chief Neri said there were two people living inside the home who were engaged to be married. He believes there were two cats that perished in the fire.

The Albany County Burn Fund would be providing the couple with a check at Selkirk Fire Station #1. There is also a GoFundMe page set up.

The fire is currently under investigation by the Bethlehem Police Department Fire Investigation Team, but Neri said the fire appears to be accidental, and the exact cause is not known at this time.

Selkirk, Elsmere, Onesquethaw, Coeymans, Coeymans Hollow, Delmar, and Medway-Grapeville fire departments assisted either on scene or on standby, as well as Delmar-Bethlehem EMS, Albany County Paramedics and Bethlehem Police.

There were no injuries reported on the scene.

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THOMAS MARRA Correspondent

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