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Fire at New Scotland Farm House Leaves Four Dead

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

NEW SCOTLAND, NY - Four family members tragically lost their lives following a structure fire in the New Salem Fire District on Saturday, July 8th. First responders were called to 64 Normanskill Rd. for a confirmed structure fire with reported entrapment at 5:17 A.M. 

Dispatchers were urgently transmitting to update incoming units as they were on the phone with a homeowner stating she was trapped on the second-floor with two children and other adults and could not get out due to heavy smoke. Dispatchers received an update that the caller could not exit the bedroom window due to an air conditioning unit in the window that she could not get out.

Arriving paramedics radioed dispatch stating they had confirmation of flames visible and dispatchers advised they were losing contact with the caller at this time. All units were advised by dispatch that they could hear a child crying in the background over the phone.

“When I pulled up there were flames coming out the back side of the building and rolling up to the second-story,” said Chief Steve Ayers of the New Salem Fire Department. “At that point in time I geared up and tried to go through the front door, but three times the heat pushed me back out.” 

Firefighters arriving on scene were advised to immediately throw ground ladders to the second-floor windows and stretch a handline to the house. Firefighters went to the window with the air conditioning unit that the caller stated she could not remove to escape.

“It took us a long time to get that out of there because it was bolted to the side of the building,” Ayers said. “That’s the reason the people couldn’t get out of that window.”

Firefighters began to make their way up the stairs to the second-floor to attempt to search for victims, but were forced out by heavy heat and smoke. The house had a metal roof, posing a problem to firefighters since they retain an extreme amount of heat inside a structure and require more work to cut open.

“Unfortunately, the heat was so intense for probably the first 40 minutes that we could not even make an attempt to get inside the building,” said Ayers.

He says there was so much fire and heat that made its way to the second-floor that crews could not make it in there until the roof was vented on the building. Once the air conditioning unit was removed, firefighters stuck their heads through the window to search for victims and were forced out due to extreme heat conditions.

The interior search crew requested fresh crews of interior firefighters to meet them at the door immediately. He says search crews were able to locate victims sooner, however, the intense heat prevented crews from being able to remove the victims until the heat was brought down.

It was at this point once the structure was cooled enough, that firefighters began taking the four victims out the second-floor windows and down the ladders to awaiting EMS personnel who worked on the victims, all of which were pronounced dead at the scene. 

A fifth occupant of the home was able to jump from a second-floor window and run to the neighbor's house, which happens to be family to the victims, and made the initial 911 call. Chief Ayers says the young man walked back over to the house and was helping the firefighters by calmly telling them where in the house each person was expected to be.

Ayers says the house provided additional challenges that hindered firefighting efforts and made the scene more dangerous, including the front door which was barricaded shut with a bar, as it was not used by the homeowners. He also was grateful the interior crews were properly searching and were able to avoid injury as a portion of the top of the staircase was missing.

“At the top of the staircase when you turned left there was a railing that had no rungs on the railing at all,” Ayers said. “When our guys went up and turned, luckily they did their search properly because if they went left, they would have fallen from the second-story down to the first-floor.”

Most of the victims were in bedrooms on the one side, with one of the bedrooms completely missing a door, Ayers said.

The fourth victim, Ayers said, was a handicap gentleman that was on the opposite end of the home, who was well known to members of the department. Ayers says in previous years, the fire department has gone to their house for drive-by parades for this gentleman, as he and his family would always support the fire department with their local farmstand. Ayers said every year there would be a donation jar at their farmstand that the family would donate the proceeds to the fire department every year.

“It was rough because a lot of people knew the families,” he said.

A water supply drafting site was set up at the creek on Krumkill Road and fed water to the scene. 

Fire departments on scene and on standby included New Salem, Voorheesville, Onesquethaw, Slingerlands, North Bethlehem, Delmar, Berne, and Westmere, as well as assistance from Town of Bethlehem FAST Team, Albany County Sheriff’s Ambulance, Albany County Paramedics, Delmar-Bethlehem EMS, Guilderland EMS, Greene County Paramedics, Albany County Sheriff’s, New York State Police, New York State Fire.

An official cause of fire has not yet been officially released; however, Ayers says the cause is believed to be electrical that may have been in an addition between the kitchen and the area that connected to the second-floor bedroom area.

Firefighters got overheated very quickly and needed to be cooled down, however, there were no reports of firefighter injuries on scene.

The victims; a 35-year-old who heroically alerted his son to jump from the window and escape the fire, his 40-year-old girlfriend, 64-year-old uncle and 5-year-old daughter.

The son who escaped and alerted neighbors of the fire was treated at the hospital for his injuries.

Information for the GoFundMe page can be found here:

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THOMAS MARRA Correspondent

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