Schenectady County

‘Hot, fast-moving fire’ leaves five homeless in Scotia

John Pedersen was watching television in his bedroom when he heard a strange crackling sound coming

John Pedersen was watching television in his bedroom when he heard a strange crackling sound coming from the rear of his first-floor apartment.

When he opened his back door to investigate, he found the rear porch at 32 Sacandaga Road engulfed.

“I opened the door and the back porch was already up in flames,” he said Tuesday afternoon, as dozens of fire crews struggled to extinguish the blaze.

Pedersen was among five left homeless after fire ripped through the two-family house less than a block away from the Schenectady Christian School off Second Avenue. Scotia Fire Chief Richard Kasko said there were no injuries in the fire, the cause of which is still under investigation. “We don’t really know yet,” he said.

Smoke was reported coming from the residence at 2:39 p.m. and firefighters were on the scene within minutes. But Kasko said flames had already spread through the attic area, making it dangerous to tackle the blaze from inside.

“It was a very hot, fast-moving fire,” he said. “Once it got up into the attic in this old house, we had to back the crews out for their own safety,”

Within a half-hour, the roof of the structure erupted into flames. Two ladder trucks poured water down, but were unable to prevent the rear porch and slate roof from collapsing.

The fire sent black and gray smoke billowing throughout the neighborhood. Dozens of spectators gathered, taking pictures with cameras and cellular phones as firefighters knocked down flames for nearly two hours. In all, seven area fire crews responded. Many remained on the scene for nearly four hours while the stubborn fire smoldered.

Pedersen said he was alone in the house when the fire broke out; his roommate and three upstairs tenants were displaced. He said he escaped the house with little more than the sweatpants and sleeveless shirt he was wearing.

“All you see here is what I own now,” he said. “But I’m glad nobody was hurt.”

Students at the nearby school were evacuated onto Third Street, after the fire was spotted from the building’s Second Street windows. Headmaster John Bishop said the students were dismissed about a half-hour earlier than normal.

“We just needed to make sure we got our students out of the way,” he said.

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