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January, 2016

1ST Responder Newspaper - NY


In my November column, I wrote about a fatal structure fire that Central Nyack Fire Chief Mike Healy responded to. Chief Healy arrived on the scene within a few minutes after dispatch and found a working fire in what appeared to be a wellmaintained building, typical of any one-family suburban dwelling. In actuality, the former onefamily house had been converted illegally for a three-family occupancy. Chief Healy sent firefighters into the burning building because there were reports of a female resident trapped inside. Search and rescue evolutions, particularly before the fire was brought under control, can be very dangerous and confusing. In this case, even more so because the building had been converted without building permits; and there were numerous violations that one would not find in a normal floor plan for a legal onefamily house. I am not sure if it is due to the economy in our area of New York State with the high cost of living or a lack of strong enforcement of the building and fire codes, but in any case, we are experiencing a proliferation of illegally converted buildings in many areas of our county. In many cases, no fines are ever levied or very small ones, which do not act as a deterrent. Regardless of the reasons, illegal landlords appear to be making so much money that they feel comfortable continuing to invest in the conversion of large numbers of buildings, with little threat from local government. They create revenue flows,

consisting of mostly cash with no leases and frequently rented to undocumented tenants, who do not complain to the authorities. In recognition of the weakness of the legal system to effectively prohibit the spread of these illegal conversions, we have encouraged the formation of civic groups. We as citizens have substantial power in civil court and otherwise to affect positive changes. These groups have been ferreting out illegal structures by sometimes going street by street looking for illegal buildings and reporting them to the proper government enforcement agencies. These groups then follow the cases in meetings at local Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Boards, as well as court hearings. For controversial cases, they can fill a Hearing Room to full capacity, supplying speakers on the topic. They can also follow the court cases, taking notes on the proceedings and objecting or going to the media when a dismissal is considered or a small fine for a major violation is levied. These groups are highly effective, particularly when working with the local fire departments. They are making life very uncomfortable for the bad guys, who put our firefighters and residents in tremendous danger. It is also very satisfying to see successful prosecutions and large fines imposed upon unscrupulous slum landlords who jeopardize the safety of others for their own greedy financial benefit. If you would like more information on how to get a group started in your coverage area, feel free to give me a call at 845-3648933 or e-mail me at

Ravena fire crews at the ready at a working fire in Ravena


Ravena makes quick stop of job On November 9, 2015 at approximately 7:00 p.m. as Village of Ravena firefighters began their weekly training drill at the Ravena fire house, fire department personnel discovered a large fire in an alley across the street involving two structures. Deputy Chief Jeff D'Ambrosio (Car 26-02) assumed incident command as crews began to gear up to handle the job. Also on scene was Assistant Chief Aaron Santillo (Car 26-03), who assisted Deputy Chief D'Ambrosio in going door to door notifying all residents of the fire and assisting with their safe evacuation. Responding directly across the street from their firehouse, Engine Company 26-20 and Rescue Company 26-40 made quick work of the fire. A natural gas line feeding one of the buildings was determined to have a leak which further fed the fire. Once the bulk of the job was

JUMP TO FILE #111015103 brought under control, the utilities were shut off to the structures. Additionally, firefighters were able tackle additional flames that had penetrated the wall from the exterior of the balloon framed structure further prohibiting the fire spread. Assistant Chief of the Ravena Fire Police, John Lennon IV (Car 26-92), assisted in the coordination of other RFD fire police officers to redirect vehicle and foot traffic away from the scene. Without the attentiveness of crews in collaboration with a rapid, organized response of those crews, this fire would have quickly developed into a multi-alarm fire with major fire damage. The department's quick intervention kept the job to a single alarm assignment.

During the incident, residents of the buildings that were evacuated took temporary shelter at the Ravena fire house. All residents were able to find longer term shelter with family while repairs are made to their building. There were no injuries during the incident. The fire remains under investigation by the Ravena Fire Department and the Coeymans Police Department's Fire Investigation Team. Also assisting were the Ravena Rescue Squad, Albany County Paramedics, Coeymans Police Department, Village of Ravena Department of Public Works, National Grid, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric. The Coeymans Fire District stood by for the Ravena Fire Department while crews dealt with the fire. - TRAVIS WITBECK

WORKING FACES If you have photos you would like to see in our Working Faces feature please upload them on our website or email them to


Mechanicville fire chief Jim Corrigan presents firefighter Christinea Wheeler with her shield, which was once used by her grandfather, Charlie Wheeler Sr.


West Glenville Chief James Spencer congratulates firefighter Cody Summer upon graduating firefighter1

Profile for Belsito Communications Inc.

1st Responder News New York January  

1st Responder News New York January