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Fatal Rensselaer fire remains under investigation

Updated: 07/29/2014 6:41 PM
Created: 07/29/2014 8:42 AM WNYT.com
By: WNYT Staff

RENSSELAER - As soon as firefighters arrived at number 52 Walker Street, on a narrow car-cluttered street, directly behind Rensselaer City Hall, they knew they'd have their hands full.

"Upon arrival we had a building that was fully involved, in other words the first and second floor had heavy fire coming out of it," said Assistant Fire Chief Jay Corcoran.

At the time flames were shooting out the window, people were trapped inside.

"We were sleeping in our bed and all of a sudden we heard, ‘help, help, fire, help,’" said Ashley Brown, who lives next door with her husband and two small children. Her wooden back deck was only ten feet away from the flames."

"It was really scary," said Brown. "I kind of freaked out. I just grabbed them and ran."

"While Brown and her children were up against the clock, trying to get out of harm’s way, her husband Gary, and others, raced toward the burning building, where they were able to make sure one of the occupants made it out safely through a first floor window."

"It's nice that we have good people around that try to help because not everybody is like that," he explained.

Firefighters from the city of Rensselaer and four neighboring volunteer companies were able to extinguish the flames, but sadly, one of the occupants, Gwendolyn Fowler, 70, whose husband had to jump out the window, never made it out alive.

Three other tenants who lived in the three unit apartment house made it out on their own. Most of their belongings are destroyed, but they are able to save themselves.

The gentleman who jumped out the window is being treated for non-life threatening burns.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation -- although authorities now say they do "not" consider it suspicious.

Crews are investigating a fire on Walker Street in Rensselaer.
Photo: WNYT
The remains of the home at 52 Walker Street in Rensselaer.
Photo: Dan Levy / WNYT

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