Friday, January 14, 2022

Orleans County Covered by Batavia Daily News:
Four firefighters escape flare-up and rapidly-moving fire causing flaming blockage to their exit route

Four firefighters escaped serious injury after fire quickly blocked their escape route on the second floor of a house on Knapp Street Wednesday morning. Village firefighters were called to 136 Knapp St. in Albion, for a report of a front porch on fire.

Orleans County Emergency Management Services Coordinator Dale Banker said the owner, Michael Reigle, had dragged a burning mattress from the home. While the mattress burned outside, the inside of the house quickly filled with smoke.

The first engine arrived and four firefighters carried a line into the house, moving up the stairs to the second floor.

“We were on the second floor when it must have gotten air and the fire took off,” said Justin Niederhofer, a firefighter who also serves as deputy director of EMS. “It blocked our egress to the stairs. I’m not sure what happened. There was borderline hoarding conditions.

The line they were hauling up the stairs was “cut in half” by the fire, Banker said. Niederhofer, Seth Dumrese, Dustin Pahura and Steven Papponetti were able to make their way across the second floor and to windows furthest away from the fire.

The four were able to climb through the windows to a waiting ladder, going head first out the windows. Papponetti suffered a cut hand but nothing serious, Banker said.

“It was a flashover and it caused the line, a one and three-quarter inch, to burn in half,” he said. “In my 40-plus years I think it’s only the second time I’ve seen a fire evolve that quickly. The smoke went from white to gray to pitch black. Luckily, these firefighters were seasoned veterans and knew what they had to do. We’re glad of that, and they were able to escape.”

Banker said it’s possible that because of the clutter inside the house, the mattress may have started several small fires on the first floor as the owner carried the burning mattress from the house. Reigle suffered burns to his hand and arm and was taken to a hospital for treatment. The cause is believed to be a space heater. 

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It was a long day for firefighters. At 2 a.m., fire erupted at a trailer home at 14203 West Barre Rd. in Barre. Niederhofer said that four people were living in the home. One of them said that he was cooking and left the room to return to the bedroom.

He attempted to carry the burning pan out the front door but was unable to make it out. He suffered burns to his hands and was treated at the scene. The home was a total loss, as was the house on Knapp Street.

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