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Myrtle Ave. fire victims salvage belongings

August 23, 2019 05:47 PM

ALBANY - Dozens of people are being assisted by the American Red Cross after a fire destroyed five apartment buildings on Myrtle Avenue in the City of Albany late Thursday night.

The Red Cross said 42 people have been displaced as a result of the fire. It’s believed the fire started in a vacant building at 20 Myrtle Ave around 11:45 p.m. Fire officials said it took over 4 hours to put out.

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"The more they tried to put it out, the more it just kept on coming over and it was really bad,” said Crystal Pope, a resident of one of the apartment buildings the fire spread to. “It wouldn't stop at all.”

Pope said her daughter woke her up to tell her about the fire. An official cause has not been named, but Pope said she heard it was started by squatters at 20 Myrtle Ave.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan spoke about the devastating fire at a promotion ceremony for firefighters at City Hall on Friday. She said vacant homes have been "magnets for trouble."

Sheehan said the city had issued licenses for apartments at 20 Myrtle as recently as 2017. Sheehan said this is a perfect example of why the foreclosure process should to be shortened.

Sheehan said the county only recently took possession of the property after it had been vacant for a year.

"It was a building that could've been saved,” she said. “It was a building that could have been rehabilitated and could've created additional new housing for residents which is desperately needed and it's just so unfortunate to see something like this happen."

Sheehan said they've applied for grants through the Attorney General’s office. She also said the city is looking into some policy changes.

Though the city does get tax money from the county on foreclosed properties, Sheehan said that could be doing more harm than good.

“We have to recognize that even though were made whole on the taxes we’re seeing a spiral and a decline in our overall tax base,” Sheehan said. “We have a stake in these buildings too.”

Many victims, like Pope, are struggling figure out their next move.

"I don't want to start over again, but I thank God I got my life,” Pope said. “I really felt bad but I still don't even know how to feel I've never been involved with anything like this before so I really don't know."

Pope was able to get some of her belongings from her apartment with the help of Albany Firefighters. Some other residents were able to do the same, but others lost most of their possessions in the flames, smoke and water.

Demolition will likely begin Friday evening.

Credits

Emily Burkhard

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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