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Van Shears Gas Main Off at Albany Apartment Building, Causing Fire

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

ALBANY, NY - On November 30, 2023, at 2:32 P.M., the city of Albany’s Fire Department was dispatched to 167 3rd Avenue for multiple calls for a reported structure fire. Engines 1 and 5, the rescue squad, Trucks 1 and 4, Rescue 9, Mohawk Ambulance Service, and the battalion chief responded to the scene. The callers reported a vehicle fire near the structure. As units were responding to the scene, a heavy black column of smoke was visible from the distance. 

Engine 5 arrived on scene and transmitted the Signal 30 for a working structure fire. Engine 5 had a vehicle that had crashed into the front of an apartment building, severing the gas line to the building, and heavy fire traveling up the front of the structure with a window that had blown out on the top floor and fire pushing into the apartment. Engine 1 grabbed the fire hydrant on the corner of the scene and laid into the scene. Firefighters immediately began to deploy multiple hand lines and made entry to the structure to begin to evacuate the building, as they had heavy fire running up the front of the building. Command notified the dispatcher that they had a three-story, multi-occupancy apartment building with heavy fire traveling up the front of the structure from a vehicle that had caught fire after striking the building, causing an active gas main leak under the vehicle. Command advised that all hands were deployed for this operation.

Firefighters dry-stretched a hand line to the top floor where the fire had blown out a window and made entry to the apartment and conducted a quick primary search. Additional firefighters made their way into the apartment building and began to make sure everybody had evacuated safely. Command requested an additional engine and truck company to the scene. Command also requested national grid gas to the scene and asked that they expedite, as they had an active gas main fire underneath the vehicle from a sheared off gas meter. As thick, heavy black smoke pushed into the afternoon sky, firefighters charged a two-and-a-half-inch hand line and went to work knocking down the heavy fire in the front of the structure. Truck 2 set up in the front of the building and went to work checking the roof area for any extension. 

Firefighters on the upper floor requested the hand line to be charged and utilized it to knock down some visible fire and cooled some hot spots. Firefighters on the upper floors began to pull ceilings and conduct overhaul to make sure that they did not have any further extension inside of the structure. The truck company on the roof notified command that they had a light smoke condition in the attic, but nothing to worry about. Firefighters inside of the structure were able to confirm that everybody was out of the structure and accounted for. Command requested housing authority to the scene. Command was notified that they had a hydrant issue on scene and firefighters were locating another hydrant nearby. Within a very short period of time, firefighters on scene had the incident under control and the heavy fire condition completely knocked down, but they still had an active gas meter fire underneath the vehicle that had crashed into the structure.

National grid arrived on scene and began to search for the shut off for the gas line into the building in the street. Firefighters continued to utilize two hand lines to keep the gas line fire under control to prevent it from spreading back to the building. National grid was unable to quickly shut off the gas line to the building, as they could not easily locate the shut off valve. Command was able to confirm from housing that there was no master shut off valve to the building and command notified the dispatcher that the gas meter had melted off of the building. As firefighters continued to utilize the two hand lines, heavy fire would blow from all portions of the vehicle time to time. Firefighters inside of the structure continued to conduct overhaul and notified command that the fire inside of the building was completely under control. The mayor of the city of Albany and her team arrived on scene and began to assist with coordinating resources for the residents inside of the building affected by the fire.

Within about one hour, national grid was able to secure the gas and firefighters were able to knock down all of the remaining fire in the front of the structure. Firefighters checked for any extension around the area where they still had fire for an extended period of time. Firefighters did not come up with any hidden hot spots and overhauled the scene. Fire investigators and police worked together to determine what caused the vehicle to crash into the structure. No injuries were reported from the fire and the vehicle was towed away from the scene. The residents that were affected by the fire were assisted by Albany Housing Authority. All of the fire apparatus went back into service later in the evening hours. 

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