Update: Chimney collapses on five Schenectady firefighters

Posted at: 08/23/2013 10:36 AM
Updated at: 08/23/2013 7:25 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Gillespie says the home on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady will have to be demolished.
Deputy Fire Chief Michael Gillespie says the home on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady will have to be demolished.
Photo: WNYT

SCHENECTADY -- Five city firefighters suffered minor injuries overnight when a chimney collapsed on them during a fire on Van Vranken Ave., authorities said.

One of the firefighters was treated for a mild concussion, Chief Michael Della Rocco told NewsChannel 13. Another firefighter suffered a back injury. The rest were bumped and bruised.

"I talked to most of them already," Della Rocco said early Friday afternoon. "They're doing OK but they've all been told by doctors to take it easy for a few days."

The fire at 1585 Van Vranken Ave. appears to have started in the kitchen of one of the four apartments in the house, Della Rocco said. Cooking oil may have spread the flames.

All of the residents escaped safely, Della Rocco said. They were staying with relatives or in temporary housing through the American Red Cross. It was unclear whether any pets were killed or injured.

The damage to the house was so extensive, city codes enforcement deemed the building unsafe. A demolition crew tore down what remained of the structure early Friday afternoon.

Anna Silverio joined a contingent of neighbors who watched the demolition from across the street. She lived next door to the house that burned.

"I was scared because the flames came right into my window," Silvero said. "I was shaking."


The Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY), which presented its annual Heroes Awards at the Desmond Friday, stresses the importance of proper equipment and training.

FASNY President Jim Burns said the helmets worn by the firefighters in Schenectady likely prevented them from suffering even more serious injuries.

"The equipment that we're using today has saved more lives than we can ever imagine," Burns said. "The helmets are better made. The turnout gear is better made."

The state's 90,000 volunteer firefighters receive the same training -- and often the same equipment -- as career firefighters like those in Schenectady, according to John D'Alessandro, FASNY's volunteer programs coordinator and a Halfmoon volunteer firefighter.

"It's an inherently dangerous activity and at any moment something can go terribly wrong," D'Alessandro said, "but we minimize that potential danger through our training, through our knowledge, and through a command structure that is predicated on not putting people at unnecessary risk."

FASNY does not represent the firefighters in Schenectady.


It's been a difficult two weeks for the five Schenectady firefighters who were injured on Van Vranken Ave. Their captain, John Nicol, 47, died last Monday in an ATV crash in Lewis County.

"It has been tough for them," Chief Della Rocco said. "I'm sure everybody was thinking about him last night, as was I."

Della Rocco did not identify the injured firefighters. He said they were not available for comment.