Kenneth C. Crowe II
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
Jun. 29—WATERVLIET — Firefighters battled flames — and the oppressive heat — when a three-alarm fire destroyed three row houses at the intersection of 24th Street and Broadway Monday and sent a resident and two Watervliet Arsenal firefighters to the hospital.
“It’s bad,” Watervliet Fire Chief Tom Garrett said as heavy thick smoke covered the neighborhood as the fire spread through 2401, 2403 and 2405 Broadway.
“This is a big one. It hasn’t happened like this in a while,” Garrett said.
Two Watervliet Arsenal firefighters went to the hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion while a resident was treated for smoke inhalation, Garrett said. All other residents from the three adjoining, two-story brick buildings escaped the fire that drew crowds of spectators and shut down local roads to traffic.
The fire was so intense that it partially melted the facemask of a Watervliet firefighter who was inside the burning buildings as firefighters searched to ensure no one was left inside.
“We smelled it,” said Howard Barrett, 64, of 2403 Broadway about how he learned his home was on fire.
As the flames spread, Barrett said he yelled, “Fire!” to alert neighbors. He said he put a leash on his dog, Emmie, and walked out of the burning building with his roommate.
“I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad we got out,” Barrett said.
At times the smoke was so intense that Broadway and the trio of row houses disappeared from view.
Firefighters stripped off their heavy turnout gear coats to cool off. A CDTA bus was parked a block away from the fire on 24th Street between Second Avenue and Broadway to provide a place for firefighters to go and cool off in the air conditioning.
Garrett described the heat and humidity as brutal. The National Weather Service reported a high temperature of 93 degrees Monday with the heat indices soaring between 98 to 102 degrees throughout the Capital Region.
“You’re limited by how much time you can spend (in firefighting gear),” Garrett said. At times, some firefighters could be seen in their T-shirts as they hosed down the rear of the three buildings.
The first call for the fire came in at 1:15 p.m. with the Watervliet Fire Department responding to the call. As the fire built, Watervliet called on the Watervliet Arsenal, Troy, Green Island, Cohoes and Albany fire departments to help fight the fire. Colonie EMS also was on the scene.
At 2403 Broadway, the roof collapsed causing a pancake effect as the lower stories collapsed, Garrett said.
As tower and aerial ladder trucks poured water from above, pumpers aimed long streams of water from the street level and firefighters held hoses to battle the flames. A very brief shower passed over the site of the fire.
The Watervliet Housing Authority Community Center on Whitehall Street in the Quinn Apartment complex near the fire opened for area residents whose power was cut by the fire and needed to cool off. The community center is accessible by walking to Whitehall Street between 23rd and 24th streets.
Garrett said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire. The chief estimated extinguishing the fire would stretch into the early evening hours Monday.
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