Four people, including a baby, were sent to area hospitals Friday morning after a fire on Mumford Street destroyed their home.
Firefighters later determined that one of the residents of 543 Mumford St. started the blaze with careless smoking. The fire grew out of control while residents tried to put it out before calling for help, Deputy Fire Chief Scott Doherty said.
In the end, a neighbor called 911 as a woman fled the house with her 4-month-old daughter. The house was so badly damaged that city code enforcers are inspecting it to determine whether it can be repaired.
A 79-year-old man was airlifted to Albany Medical Center with burns, while two women and the baby were taken to St. Clare’s for smoke inhalation. All were conscious at the scene, and none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Firefighters were called to the home just before 10:20 a.m. when Guilliano Amelo and his wife, Farisa, of 549 Mumford — three houses down the street from the fire — discovered the blaze as they headed to work.
“The lady that’s living there came out running with a baby in her hands,” Amelo said. “My wife saw the smoke, the thick smoke coming out of the front door.”
Farisa called 911 while Amelo ran to the burning house.
He saw a second woman come out and learned there was another person inside. The final resident, 79-year-old James Gutti, was sticking his head out a window on the second floor, about 15 feet off the ground on the side of the house.
“I told him to jump, because he can’t come downstairs, there’s all fire there. You couldn’t get in,” Amelo said. “He crawled out, held on with one hand on the window and he dropped, it was an older guy. When he dropped, I ran down, grabbed him by the hand and I pulled him to the green porch [across the street]. By the time I was there, the Fire Department was already pulling up.”
Firefighters arrived to find flames coming from both the first and second floors. They also had an initial report that the baby was still inside, on the second floor.
The baby was already out. But the initial reports prompted firefighters to attempt a rescue, one that couldn’t last long under the conditions, Fire Chief Robert Farstad said.
“The fire was of such a magnitude that they weren’t able to breach the stairs,” Farstad said, noting that word had come by that point that the baby was likely outside. “But anything that was upstairs wasn’t alive. The fire was that bad.”
Paramedics tended to all four residents, including 4-month-old Genevive Goodspeed; her 24-year-old mother, Crystal Plath; and 52-year-old Shirley Goodspeed. The three needed treatment for smoke inhalation, but recovered quickly. Plath and her baby were released from St. Clare’s by nightfall, and Goodspeed was held overnight for observation.
Gutti was the only resident burned. He was flown to Albany Medical Center, which would not release his condition.
Doherty said he didn’t know which resident’s smoking sparked the blaze.
Firefighters had it under control within a half hour. Gray smoke billowed out onto the street, sending a smoky haze down the street on the rainy morning.
The firefighters could be seen tossing charred belongings from the second floor, including small cabinets and baby toys.
Neighbors Barry and Theresa Celeste watched from their car. They live near the home, and Theresa Celeste came out to someone banging on her door about the fire.
She was able to get the car from the driveway.
“As I was pulling out, I heard something explode. I went around and saw the door open and everything was on fire,” she said.
The explosion she and other neighbors heard was actually a safety device designed to avoid explosions. Two oxygen tanks inside the house vented when heat and pressure built up to a breaking point, Doherty said. The tanks are designed to vent under those conditions so that the metal tank doesn’t rupture.
“It sounds like an explosion but it’s not truly an explosion — there’s no shrapnel flying around,” Doherty said.
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