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Crews Continue to Clean Up After Utica Apartment Fire

Cleanup crews remain on the scene of last night's fire at the Margaret Knamm apartments in Utica. The apartments are located at 33 Scott Street, between Genesee and Oneida Streets downtown.
Cleanup crews remain on the scene of last night's fire at the Margaret Knamm apartments in Utica. The apartments are located at 33 Scott Street, between Genesee and Oneida Streets downtown. The calls came in around 8:30 Wednesday night. The Utica Fire Department responded with its entire crew. Everyone got out alive but the building suffered severe damage.
Things have settled down considerably since Wednesday night but the Margaret Knamm community is still pretty shaken up. Fire crews are gone but cleanup crews have moved in and will likely be there for weeks taking care of the smoke and water damage. Seniors who live there say Wednesday night was confusing and frightening.
"I started smelling this acid smell and it was an electrical fire downstairs but by then the smoke was too heavy so I couldn't get out,” said Roger Haylette who lives on the fifth floor of the apartment building.
And Haylette was not alone. Most of the residents in the apartment building needed help getting out.
"One of the challenges we encountered was evacuating, rescuing and evacuating, the occupants of that building which many of them are disabled,” said Chief Russell Brooks of the Utica Fire Department.
"They put me in one of what they call their chairs with the lags and they walked me all the way down with the chair,” says Haylette.
Evacuating a building of elderly and disabled adults made for a confusing scene.
"The fire doors were closing and I didn't understand what was going on, I got a little disoriented,” said Sandra Williams who also lives in the building.
"It was pretty confusing, there were dozens of people milling around they didn't know who was going to be sheltered and who had other living arrangements,” said Jim White, a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team.
Another challenge was the freezing weather.
"We encountered problems such as frozen hydrants, this weather, that bitter cold weather, takes its toll on both men and machinery,” said Chief Brooks.
Crews worked overnight trying to clean up the water damage, after the sprinkler system went off each floor of the apartment retained about an inch of water.
"We’ve been basically trying to get the moisture load out of the building, pulling carpets, extracting water," says Dean Tucciarone, Owner/President of Disaster Services.
And then they will begin assessing the damage in individual units.
"There’s losses in probably 10 to 12 apartments, were effected heavily for content loss,” said Tucciarone.
"Oh, I’ll just have to do a lot of laundry, some of my electrical equipment is probably ruined,” said Laurie Novak who lives directly beneath the apartment that caught fire.
The Red Cross initially set up a shelter at the First Presbyterian Church but only five people needed to be relocated and they were put up in an area hotel.
The Fire Marshal is still investigating the cause of the fire but says it is not believed to have been set intentionally.

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