Posted at: 09/22/2012 11:24 PM
By: Dan Bazile
SCHENECTADY - The home on Helderberg Avenue went up in flames just before seven o'clock this morning -- jolting Dan DeVito out of bed.
“I heard the smoke alarms downstairs going off.”
He sprung into action, doing what he could to get everyone out safely. But he says unfortunately there wasn't enough time to get to his 86 year-old tenant on the first floor.
“I tried to get in and save him but it was just a wall of flames and smoke. It was too far gone. I couldn't get in.”
When firefighters got there, the home was fully engulfed in flames. Fire chief Michael Della Rocco was only a couple of blocks away when he heard the call.
Della Rocco explained, “I came in my personal car and it was already through the roof and that was less than a minute after the call was received.”
A search crew tried to look for the victim, but was beaten back by the intense flame and heat. Firefighters were still at the scene putting out hotspots late this morning -- several hours after putting the brakes on the flames.
Della Rocco says it appears the fire started on the first floor and spread fast. No word yet on what started it.
He told us the path the deadly blaze took; “As you can see behind me, the fire auto extended from the first floor to the second floor and up into the attic.”
DeVito says the fire is like a bad nightmare. It’s hard to believe his tenant, whom he called a friend, is gone.
“Older gentleman, nicest guy going. Retired postal worker, just a real nice guy. I’m going to miss the heck out of him.”
But he's thankful for smoke and fire alarms -- that he says gave him, his wife and stepson a chance to barely escape.
“All I can say to everybody out there is get your smoke detectors. Get extra ones if you have to. It saved our lives upstairs because if that didn't go off and hear that, we might not be able to be talking to you.”