Albany firefighters battle raging First Street fire

August 21, 2017 12:38 PM

An early morning fire consumed a section of houses on First Street in Albany, sending people outside with just the clothes on their backs.

It went from smoke to all out flames pouring from the rooftops. Witnesses say it started in the back of 315 First St., which was vacant. They say it was a haven for the homeless and drug dealers.

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Ironically, it was a homeless woman called Betsy who shouted for help.

"Betsy was banging on the door yelling that there's a fire in the house, to get out. We got out of the house," resident James Jones said.

Jones tried to calm his children -- ages 9 and 3 ½.

Another man, Chris Vallee, was looking after his cats.

"I heard banging on the front door and this lady said 'fire' and got out. Got the cats. Yes," he said.

"We had crews inside trying to pull ceilings. Again, we had top floors that had three ceilings making operation difficult," Fire Chief Warren Abriel said.

Having blocked the front and back, and worried about the still charged power lines, the fire department pulled everybody out, set up some master streams and hit it with water as hard as they could.

"All I've got is a bag of paperwork and what they're wearing," Jones said, referring to his children. "He couldn't even get his shoes. What they're wearing is what we own."

Inside that bag were birth certificates, a copy of the lease, a bottle of water and a toy for his son Grant.


WNYT Staff

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