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Warehouse Fire Destroys Millions of Medical Documents in Albany

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

ALBANY, NY - On April 14th at 1:49 A.M., dispatchers in the city of Albany's dispatch center had their emergency phones ring off the hooks as callers reported a very large warehouse fire in the area of 15 Learned Street. Engine 2, Rescue 2, Ladder 1, Truck 2, Engine 7, Engine 1, the rescue squad, Engine 5, Mohawk Ambulance Service, and Battalion 1 responded to the scene.

Albany police units in the area immediately notified the dispatcher that they had a Signal 30 and heavy fire from the building. Truck 2 pulled out of the station and notified the dispatcher that they had a heavy column of smoke and fire visible from the station in Arbor Hill. The first arriving apparatus on scene declared the Signal 30, requested the frequency to be dedicated, and notified the dispatcher that they had a very large warehouse with heavy fire blowing out the back of the structure. The heavy fire condition was blowing 40-feet over the building into the night sky. The thick column of smoke and orange glow was visible from the Green Island bridge in the city of Troy.

Firefighters immediately began to set up a supply line operation. Firefighters had a large 50-foot-wide by 500-foot-long building that was three stories with unknown contents that were heavily involved. Command notified the dispatcher that they had heavy fire on all floors and heavy smoke pushing from the roof of the structure. Command notified the dispatcher and all units on scene that this was going to be a defensive operation, and command notified the dispatcher that they had exposure issues on the 'Bravo' side of the structure, and crews needed to make entry to the building and get to the roof. Firefighters from the next arriving engine company laid in a supply line from down near the Nine Pin Brewery. Firefighters on the rear side of the building near the railroad tracks notified command that they had a large amount of car parts and tires on fire in the rear the building along with heavy fire. Firefighters utilized a blitz fire and began to attempt to drive back the heavy fire condition coming out of the building.

Command notified the dispatcher to have the railroad shut down their tracks while the firefighters on scene were operating. In the front of the building, firefighters had heavy fire pushing out the front door of the structure along with thick brown and black smoke pushing from the third-floor boarded up windows, and heavy smoke pushing from in between the bricks.

Truck 2 and Ladder 1 got into position outside of the collapse zone and firefighters began to connect supply lines to them. In the front of the building, firefighters utilized both deck guns on the two engines in the front of the building and began to put into the building over 1500-gallons-per-minute. Firefighters made their way to the side door of the building, forced entry to the structure and learned that the warehouse was full of old hospital documentation that was heavily involved. As firefighters were watching the heavy fire load inside of the building, they watched from a distance as heavy fire utilized the staircase in the building in a chimney effect. Firefighters utilized a hand line from the doorway area and attempted to knock down the heavy fire condition, but could not get into the other portions of the warehouse from where they were.

Crews in the rear of the building continued to utilize master streams for an extended period of time. Command requested one additional engine and one rescue company to the scene. Firefighters laddered the front of the building and took down a large portion of the plywood that was covering the windows and preventing firefighters from getting water onto the fire on the third-floor. As soon as the firefighters opened up the third-floor area, fire began to blow out the back of the structure and on the 'Bravo' side where firefighters were operating on the roof area. Command continued to conduct a full walk-around of the building multiple times monitoring the situation. As firefighters were working on the roof of the exposure building and inside of the structure, Command was notified that they had smoke pushing into the structure and possible extension. Firefighters went to work opening up that portion of the wall and cooling down the areas that were affected.

Firefighters continued to utilize master streams in attempting to knock down the large amount of fire inside of the structure. Unfortunately, firefighters were unable to do so as there was a significant amount of content inside of the building that they could not get water onto. Firefighters stopped operations on scene and met with Command in the parking lot to come up with a plan.

A plan was developed to allow for the roof of the structure to burn off so that firefighters could access the content inside of the structure easier. While firefighters were regrouping, it did not take long for the heavy fire condition to blow through the roof of the structure. Thick, heavy smoke continued to push from the bricks on the walls of the structure, and while firefighters were in the rear of the building, a portion of the back wall did give way, indicating that the building was not structurally safe anymore. Command requested the city's engineer to the scene and discussed options to safely resolve the issue of the potential of the collapsing structure.

Firefighters continued to utilize master streams until the early hours of the morning. Command developed the plan to punch a hole in the side of the building so the truck companies could gain access to all of the burning content. As soon as firefighters did so, a significant amount of heavy fire took off in the roof area and heavy smoke continued to push from the structure.

Firefighters remained on scene conducting extensive water operations for up to 15 hours. No injuries were reported on scene. Fire investigators remained on scene for an extended period of time conducting their investigation into the fire. Firefighters went back into service much later in the afternoon hours.

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