Massive fire at Rotterdam storage business; Smoke visible for miles from Prime Self Storage off Burdeck

The fire scene Tuesday

The fire scene Tuesday

ROTTERDAM – South Schenectady Fire Chief Dave Stern estimated 25 storage units were destroyed, while others suffered significant smoke and water damage as a result of a stubborn, wind-fueled “massive fire” at Prime Self Storage on Old Mill Lane Tuesday morning.


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Smoke was visible for miles as police closed Burdeck Street from Route 159 to Princetown Road for part of the day, and firefighters stretched yellow supply hoses for hundreds of yards from hydrants to the storage business.

The fire was reported at about 10 a.m., and firefighters were still on the scene after 5 p.m., at which time the fire was under control but not declared extinguished, Stern said.

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“We’re hitting hot spots and wetting everything down,” the chief said Tuesday early evening. “A lot of storage units have two and three feet of stuff at the bottom of them, and now it’s compacted together. We’re going to be here a while pumping water.”

Firefighters made a significant trench cut in the building’s roof to ventilate and limit the blaze.

One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion, while another received a minor cut to his hand. Neither was taken to the hospital, Stern said.

The fire’s cause remains unknown, but it was pinpointed to the third unit from one end of the long-running building. Investigators were sifting through rubble early evening. 

“When I arrived that third unit from the end was fully engulfed,” said Stern, who got to the fire within two minutes of initial reports. He said a man who was trying to put the fire out was pulled from the scene.

Because of the way the storage building was constructed, with no fire stops between its trusses, the blaze got into the chase space and, assisted by wind, ran the length of the structure until they were able to cut it off, Stern said.

He credited firefighters for their daylong effort. He said the first engine truck arrived within five minutes, and water was on the building within six minutes.


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Crews were challenged by broken hydrants, water supply issues and manpower. The department is totally volunteer.

Mutual aid from Schonowe, Carman, Rotterdam Fire District No.2, Pine Grove, Plotterkill, Schenectady’s Engine 3, Stanford Heights, Scotia, Beukendaal and Stratton Air National Guard helped put out the fire.

Schenectady County emergency services were on standby.

“We eventually got enough people here to get ahead of the fire and get it stopped before it got to the residences up on the end,” Stern said.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the storage building. Nearby homes and apartments weren’t affected.

Parts of the building were a total loss and would have to be rebuilt, Stern said.

“Some peoples’ contents are still intact,” he said. “A lot of the storage units were empty.”

Nearby resident Linda Casso watched with dejection as firefighters worked.

Casso said her family has been patronizing the business for about 20 years off and on. She said they use it as a second garage and had summer supplies and antiques packed in a unit.

Having just built a new deck, Casso said the family was eager to get their supplies from the shed to enjoy being outdoors more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the contents probably weren’t worth a lot of money, she said, it was just another inducement of anxiety.

“It’s like, what else can happen? After COVID, we have this. You always wonder what’s next. It’s crazy,” she said.

But in another instance, a renter who said he had $30,000 in sports collectibles expressed relief his belongings were unscathed, despite being two units from others that were destroyed.



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Categories: News, Schenectady County


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