Schenectady County

Damaging blaze guts 2 businesses, apartments (with photo gallery)

A massive fire ripped through a commercial and residential building at 1671 Crane St. late Saturday,

A massive fire ripped through a commercial and residential building at 1671 Crane St. late Saturday, displacing five residents and destroying a flea market and prosthetics business.

The fire broke out after 11 p.m. at the two-story, wood-framed structure. It was fully involved when firefighters arrived, according to Deputy Fire Chief Scott Doherty.

“Initially, they did try an interior attack, but fire conditions worsened so they had to pull units out and make an exterior attack,” he said.

Schenectady firefighters were assisted by Carman Fire Department, Rotterdam District 2 and Stanford Heights departments. About 40 firefighters battled the blaze.

No one was injured.

The fire destroyed the apartment of 23-year-old Ashley Williams and her fiance, Allen Graves.

“We lost everything,” she said. “My whole life is in there.”

Not only did the family lose their belongings and car parked outside, but now Graves is out of work — at least for the time being. He was employed by Premier Orthotics & Prosthetics, which operated out of the building’s basement office.

The Red Cross was helping the displaced residents with temporary lodging and money for food and clothing. There were three apartments upstairs but one was vacant.

Graves said he believes the fire started in the right portion of the flea market. He roused a neighbor from sleep and got him safely out of the building.

“I’m surprised he was still alive. There was so much smoke coming out of the door,” he said.

At first the flames were small. “In about an hour, the whole building collapsed in and the flames got 70 feet tall,” he said.

Williams was not home at the time but was bringing movies to a friend’s house.

“I could see the flames from Brandywine Avenue,” she said.

Williams said the flea market had experienced some break-ins recently with the thieves stealing some Xbox video games.

“There’s a lot of valuable stuff in there — coins, jewelry, game systems,” she said.

Graves and Williams believe the fire was suspicious.

Williams said the grass was on fire near the building. “You could see a big circle of fire,” she said.

“There was a trail of fire coming away from the building,” Graves added.

Schenectady fire crews were at the property, which is on the border between Schenectady and Rotterdam, throughout Sunday putting out hot spots.

Fire officials still do not know what started the blaze, but Doherty said he would not start the investigation until the fire is fully extinguished. Schenectady County Fire Emergency Management Coordinator John Nuzback and police are also assisting.

Building owner Mark Noga, who also runs Premier Orthotics & Prosthetics, confirmed that someone broke into the building last Monday night, caused some damage and kicked the door on the way out.

“The police were saying it seems like kids. They didn’t take anything super valuable,” he said.

Noga was still trying to get over the shock of the fire. The company, which was started by his father, has been in business for about 25 years.

“I’m taking it one day at time. That’s all we can do at this point,” he said.

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