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What you need to know for 12/11/2017

Park Ave house torn down before tenant could retrieve belongings

Park Ave house torn down before tenant could retrieve belongings

Park Ave house torn down before tenant could retrieve belongings
Scott Randazzi, Donna Robinson, and Levoria Davis watch as their Park Ave home is demolished with their belongings still inside
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

SCHENECTADY -- Demolition crews on Friday leveled the Park Avenue apartment house damaged by fire earlier this week.

One resident of the destroyed building, however, expressed concern that she wasn't given an opportunity to save any belongings she believed could have been saved.

Donna Robinson said she'd moved into the 1059 Park Ave. apartment only a month before the fire. Eight people, including Robinson, were left homeless by the Wednesday night blaze. No one was hurt.

Robinson is staying with her daughter nearby and said she first realized the building was being demolished when she heard heavy equipment working on it Friday.

"No one said anything to me," Robinson said. "Everything I owned was in that that apartment."

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Gillespie said the fire department tries to work with residents who approach them and works through the building owner to contact residents.

When they get requests to find medication, family heirlooms or similar items, department members try to get those items, if it's safe to do so.

"Our goal is to help them out in any way we can," Gillespie said.

He recalled getting a request Friday just before demolition was to begin, and the demolition crew slowed the process so firefighters could try to find the item.

The fire broke out shortly after 5 p.m. Firefighters knocked down the flames, despite cold, windy conditions. Investigators traced the cause to an electrical malfunction; there was electrical work being done prior to the fire, and that work that had the proper permits, Gillespie said. Whether the electrician caused the issue or it was coincidental was unclear, he said.

Officials from the fire department and city code enforcement office deemed the building unsafe later Wednesday night and slated it for demolition.

If not destroyed by flames, many items can't be salvaged for other reasons, Gillespie said. And the building starts to deteriorate from all the water put on the fire.

"It most cases, even if (an item) can be located, it would be destroyed by the water, cold or debris," he said.

Resident Scott Randazzo was one of those who was able to go back in with firefighters to grab an item: medication, in his case.

He said the water damage was extensive.

"I wasn't able to get much of anything," he said.

He did save his cat as he escaped the building Wednesday night, he said. Randazzo was sleeping when the fire began. He remembered someone banging on his door to get him up and out.

Robinson said she was the one who woke Randazzo. She was walking her dog when she returned home and saw flames. She said she started banging on doors to ensure everybody was up and out.

She's thankful no one got hurt.

Now, she has to start over. She had no insurance. She's been working with county agencies and the Red Cross to get some help and is staying with her daughter.

"What I'm very angry about is they could have told me something or called me," Robinson said.

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