GRANVILLE — When firefighters arrived on the scene of an apartment building blaze early Sunday morning, temperatures were 10 degrees below zero and flames were tearing through one apartment and spreading to adjacent homes in the Mettowee Valley Apartments complex.
“When we pulled up, there was heavy fire in apartment seven, out the first-floor window and across the roof,” said Granville Fire Chief Ryan Pedone at about noon at the Franklin Avenue fire scene. “We began evacuating … we had to wake people up to get out.”
According to Pedone, the fire, which was called in at 6:42 a.m., spread from apartment seven, across five others, to apartment 12. It was unclear how many people lived in the homes, but the Northeastern New York Chapter of the American Red Cross said it was assisting 11 people later Sunday.
“We originally got the call for a structure fire in apartment seven,” he said, icicles visibly dripping from his helmet. “There was extensive damage, but no one was injured, and no firefighters were injured.”
But fighting a fire in below zero temperatures is challenging and Pedone said that initially they had some problems with getting hydrants opened in the cold. And the Department of Public Works was on scene to plow a path for a second ladder truck to get to the rear of the apartment building.
Additionally, they had to pump heat on the truck pumps to keep them from freezing. “Most of our trucks have pump heaters, but you also need something like a ‘salamander’ (heater) to keep pumping heat,” Pedone said.
After seven hours on scene in freezing temperatures, firefighters’ gear was iced over and some had helmets and coats completely encased in ice and icicles. The displaced residents were trying to salvage a lamp here or a small bucket of belongings there.
The Red Cross provided financial assistance for necessities such as shelter, food and clothing to eleven adults. Four of those affected by the fire will also be eligible for veterans’ services. Volunteers also offered emotional support and comfort kits containing personal care items, agency spokeswoman Mary Alice Molgard said in a news release.
Fire companies responding to the blaze were Granville Fire and firefighters from Middle Granville, North Granville, West Pawlet, Pawlet, Salem, Hartford, Poultney, Glens Falls and Whitehall. Granville and Fair Haven EMS were also on scene.
At noon, Pedone said they would be on scene for about another hour, to make sure the fire was fully extinguished.
The fire remained under investigation later Sunday, with no cause determined. Washington County fire investigators were called to the scene.