Massive Halfmoon fire forces tenants to jump out of windows


HALF-MOON — A fire tore through a building midday Monday, forcing at least two people to jump from their windows and firefighters to successfully rescue a teenager who couldn’t get out.

It started around 1 p.m. on July 4 at 207 Mohawk Terrace near Crescent Vischer Ferry Road.

“We were coming from Lake George. There was smoke but no fire that I could see. My girlfriend called 911. Fifteen minutes later the whole place was in flames. It was so quick,” resident Pierce Petillo said Tuesday.

In the moments before the fire spread, Julia Voss ventured inside to retrieve her cat. By the time she retreated outside, the fire was spreading rapidly and her upstairs neighbors were at their bedroom window, saying the smoke was too heavy for them to climb out the front door. .

“We were yelling, ‘Push your screens,'” Voss said.

Her neighbours, a mother and a school-age child, climbed out the window, the mother cutting off her arm in the process, and both jumped.

“Me and another man, I don’t even know his name, we just grabbed them,” she said, pointing to the window about 15 feet off the ground.

Firefighters also helped at least one other person escape from a balcony, residents said. After everyone was evacuated, firefighters learned a 13-year-old was missing, leading to a massive search inside amid thick smoke, witnesses said. They brought the teenager back alive. In total, there were more than 25 tenants, including five children, according to the Red Cross.

It took several fire departments hours to put out the blaze, which started as the Clifton Park July 4 parade was winding down. The West Crescent Fire Department was on parade but rushed to the call, then sent two more alarms for mutual aid with trapping, bringing in fire departments from two counties.

West Crescent officials could not be reached immediately Tuesday to discuss the fire or its possible cause.

After the fire was extinguished, residents were allowed in briefly to collect wallets and other essentials. The Red Cross responded and offered financial assistance for necessities, including the cost of a hotel room for the night. During the night, firefighters had to extinguish the flames several times when the building reignited.

The building was a total loss and will be demolished, the tenants announced.

Tuesday morning they returned to pick up whatever had survived the fire, smoke and water.

“It was ankle-deep in water last night,” said Adrian Marin, Jr., who had initially hoped his apartment wouldn’t be damaged because the fire hadn’t spread.

“It was definitely more of a shock, to see how everything was decimated,” he said.

Voss focused on the positives, ominously packing the clothes that hadn’t been touched, folded safely in dresser drawers. The big screen TV was still working. A box of snacks had somehow survived.

Petillo, who has renter’s insurance, had attached a utility trailer to his car and was hauling loads of salvaged belongings to a nearby storage unit. Some of the good news: his expensive paintball gear, all stored in safety cases, was fine. A tent and his motorcycle helmet appeared to be intact too.

“We’re trying to beat the storm, just get it all out,” he said in a steady drizzle on Tuesday morning. “I’m just trying to save everything I have left.”


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