As the excavator did its work Monday, Tina Daniels watched.
The excavator was taking down 438 Hulett St., the house that was once home to her cousin David Terry and his four young children.
Terry and three of those children perished there Thursday morning in a fire authorities say was intentionally set. The fourth child remains hospitalized in critical condition.
“He was a good father,” Daniels said of her cousin as the excavator finished off the structure. “It’s upsetting.”
Daniels was one of several people watching the demolition of the house at the intersection of Hulett Street and Grant Avenue on Monday afternoon.
City officials had been expecting to take down the house ever since city code inspectors deemed it unsafe, soon after the fire. But investigators needed time to finish their work. When they were done Monday, demolition began, Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco said.
Investigators’ final work included finishing up some details, including re-examining some areas of the building, he said.
Firefighters also worked Monday morning to retrieve belongings from the first-floor apartment, from which a total of nine people escaped uninjured.
Two men also escaped the second-floor apartment through a rear entrance, Della Rocco said.
Unable to escape were David Terry, 32; Layah Terry, 3; Michael Terry, 2; 11-month-old Donavan Duell; and 5-year-old Safyre Terry.
All died except Safyre, who was severely burned before she was rescued by firefighters. Within hours of the fire, she was flown in critical condition to the burn unit at Westchester Medical Center, and she remained there Monday.
Daniels said she was told by other family members that Safyre had shown some improvement over the weekend, but authorities could not confirm that Monday.
Daniels also said funeral arrangements for those killed were still being made Monday.
Robert Butler, 27, of Saratoga Springs was arrested later Thursday and accused of setting the fire. He is charged only with a single count of first-degree arson at this point, and remained at the Schenectady County Jail without bail Monday. Because of the deaths, Butler is expected to face a host of other charges, including four counts of murder.
Della Rocco said first-floor residents reported hearing smoke detectors as they escaped, but whether detectors were operative on the second floor is still unclear.
Also demolished Monday after an unrelated fire Sunday was a vacant home at 32 Steuben St., Della Rocco said. Firefighters were called to that home just after 7 p.m. Sunday. That fire has also been deemed intentionally set, the chief said, but it resulted in no injuries.