Posted at: 07/01/2012 11:50 PM
| Updated at: 07/02/2012 10:39 AM
By: Dan Levy
RENSSELAER - Five homes on one city block were damaged by fire Sunday afternoon, two of them substantially, after brisk winds blew flames from one building to another in the city of Rensselaer.
Even before firefighters were finished at the scene, a former Rensselaer fire chief, and current county legislator, showed up to blast city officials for what he described as gross negligence that he says jeopardizes residents and their properties.
When fire erupted in the rear of number 11 Aiken Avenue, around 4:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon, four people were inside the building, including Alan Brozowski and his wife Mary Jane in their second floor apartment.
"I was kind of dozing off on the couch," Albany Brozowski said, "My wife started screaming to me there's smoke and then we saw smoke coming out of my back bedroom in my son's room so then I just got everyone out of the house."
Everyone escaped safely but firefighters, more than one hundred of them, from a half dozen area companies, had their hands full.
"These older structures, once the fire gets started, sometimes it's very difficult to contain," said Assistant Rensselaer Fire Chief Jay Corcoran. "A little bit of wind goes a long way on a day like today and you could tell the breeze was blowing the fire probably coming from the west and that was really fanning the flames."
Charred embers were the only thing that remained in the rear of 11 Aiken Avenue, the apparent point of origin.
"It appeared to be the back porch (where the fire was coming from)," said Alan Brozowski. "It could have been the grill, it could have been anything."
Brozowski tells News Channel 13 that he had been doing some cooking on his charcoal grill earlier in the afternoon.
While firefighters were still at the scene, Rensselaer County Legislator Mike Stammel was telling media at the scene that residents of Aiken Avenue were in more danger then they realized, pointing out that two fire stations on the south side of town had been shut down in recent years, and road construction delays response time from the north end.
"No contingency plan to put a fire department down at this end of the city puts these people at risk," Stammel asserted, "whether it's a medical need or a fire need."
Assistant Chief Corcoran said he thinks the delay was "negligible."
"We still have complete access to this end of the city and to this particular neighborhood," Corcoran stated. "There's many ways you can get down here."
Mike Stammel says he plans to present a resolution to the county legislature forcing the city to draw up an action plan.
Meanwhile, five Aiken Avenue residents were left homeless by the fire and were being assisted by the Red Cross.