The cause of Thursday night’s deadly Scotia apartment fire remained under investigation Friday afternoon.
The state Office of Fire Prevention and Control is working to determine what caused the fire that started in a basement apartment in the rear left corner of the building, Scotia Fire Chief Ken Almy said.
The woman who lived in the apartment, now identified as Jill Vanselow, died in the fire.
“Nobody likes calls like this,” Almy said. “We’re a pretty tight knit community here, and it’s very unfortunate.”
Scotia firefighters were called to the 11 N. Ten Broeck building, located down the road from the fire department, at about 8:10 p.m. They arrived in under a minute to find heavy flames coming from the front and rear entrances and smoke throughout, Almy said. The fire was called under control about three hours later. Firefighters from Thomas Corners, Beukendaal, West Glenville and Schenectady also responded.
“It was really hot, and it was really smoky, and it was a tough fire to fight,” Almy said.
The building’s “balloon frame construction” also caused the fire to spread quickly through the walls, he said. “We ended up chasing it all over the place.”
Firefighters entered the front door and went down to the basement, but were unable to get to Vanselow’s apartment.
“We were just met with heavy smoke and flames, and high heat conditions,” Almy said.
“A while afterwards,” after fighting the flames from the outside, crews entered the apartment where they found the body, he said.
Almy said there was extensive damage to the basement, especially in the apartment where the fire started. The first and second floor apartments directly above also received some damage, he said.
The rest of the building sustained smoke damage, he said. Residents will be allowed to return to retrieve their belongings once the fire investigation is completed either late today or Saturday, he said.
“There’s a couple areas that are questionable, but for the most part the building’s intact,” he said.
Officials are awaiting the results of an autopsy to identify the fire victim, but Jumpin’ Jacks Drive-In manager Mark Lansing Jr. identified her as Vanselow, a longtime employee. Tonight’s fireworks at Jumpin’ Jacks will honor her memory, he said.
“It’s gonna be a tough day,” he said. “She always said the fireworks was her favorite night of the whole year.”
Lansing said Vanselow served ice cream at Jumpin’ Jacks, and was an employee there for at least 12 years. She usually took the night before the pre-Fourth of July fireworks off in preparation for the big day, he said.
Lansing estimated that she was in her 50s.
“She was great,” he said. “Super nice lady. Everybody liked her, everybody got along with her. She was great. Always said hi to you, always smiling. She’s gonna be missed quite a bit.”
Tonight, to honor Vanselow's memory, Jumpin’ Jacks employees will wear her initials on their work uniforms, he said.
“We’re just gonna celebrate her favorite night of the year,” he said.