A fire on Tuesday destroyed the home of Amsterdam track star Izaiah Brown, just days before he was to begin his sophomore year at Rutgers University.
The fire, at 78 Bunn St., started in the afternoon. Eight people were home at the time of the blaze.
“I believe in total, upstairs and downstairs, there were eight people,” said Officer Allen Drake with the Amsterdam Police Department, who was on the scene. “Everybody got out fine.”
Drake called the blaze an electrical fire that started in the basement. The house was not able to be saved, he said. The American Red Cross was on scene to offer assistance to those who were displaced.
Brown said he had just got home from running errands when he and a friend smelled something burning.
“I just thought someone had burned something downstairs, wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened,” he said.
But the smell started getting worse. Brown and his friend went into the living room and saw black smoke pouring out of the vents.
“We both instantly sprang into action … I ran over and woke my mom up. I got my sister and the dog and we got out,” Brown said.
Crystal Albino, Brown’s mother, had just finished a shift at Home Helpers and was taking a nap. After she was awaken by her son, “I saw the smoke was black and it was rushing in really quick so I woke my daughter up, I grabbed my dog, and we all just ran out of the house,” she said.
Brown, who lives with his sister and mom on the second floor, went back into the house on the first floor.
“I went into the first floor to check if they got out,” said Brown, noting the kids ran out past him. “Then they said the man of the house was downstairs [in the basement].”
Brown went down the stairs to the basement.
“It was hard for me to see two feet in front of me,” said Brown. As he arrived at the basement door, “I kicked it open and smoke just rolled out,” he said.
Brown said he could hear the man yelling for everyone to get out. Brown told him they were the only ones left in the building and the two ran upstairs and out of the house.
Brown, 19, his mother, and his sister, Nyasia, 15, lost everything.
“I’m dumfounded, I can’t believe this is happening to me,” said Albino, standing a block away at the corner of Bunn Street and McElwain Avenue. “I feel basically like crap right now, pissed off.”
At least three engines from the Amsterdam Fire Department responded. A ladder hose dumped water on the blaze from above as acrid smoke obscured the street and spread into the surrounding neighborhood.
“It would’ve been five years next month,” said Albino of how long she and her kids have lived at 78 Bunn St.
Albino ticked off the things that were lost in the fire, including her son’s many track and field trophies. Brown, a sprinter, was a high school All-American in the 400 meter and finished his high school career with 20 sectional titles and five state championships.
Brown said he was leaving for Rutgers this Friday but will likely postpone his return to campus.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect me,” said Brown of his academic and athletic career upon returning to school. “It’s going to be on my mind for a little while; I’m going to constantly have my family on my mind.”
Brown said he lost everything.
“I ran outside with no shoes on, I don’t even have a pair of shoes,” he said.
Brown said firefighters recovered his trophies, but that they’re charred and melted.
“I’m not going to even try to clean them because it’s a memory of another obstacle that me and my family have overcome,” Brown said. “Seeing them charred, it’s just another obstacle I know we’re going to overcome.”
Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, firstname.lastname@example.org or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.