NFD looking for bystander footage of Friday fire

Shawn Magrath Photo

NORWICH – Officials with the City of Norwich Fire Department are seeking information with regard to the Friday blaze that sent two victims to Upstate Medical Center with severe burn injuries.

While the cause of the fire led county investigators and fire marshals to an attic area above the third story, Norwich Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo is encouraging bystanders who captured video from the early minutes of the event to contact the Norwich station.

“We're looking for the very early minutes of Friday's fire as the victims were being extricated from the burning structure,” said Chawgo.

While Chawgo said that the execution of the mutual aid response went as well as it could have, the department would like to utilize the video and still images gathered from the nearly 100 people onlooking for future training and educational exercises. “We're constantly scrutinizing how we do what we do so that we may improve our response,” he said. “This footage could help.”

“Dave Francis supplied the department with some great still images from above the scene through the use of a his 'drone,' but we'd still like to gather as much as we possibly can and piece it all together,” said Chawgo.

Those who may have recorded the event on their mobile phone or camera are encouraged to call Chief Chawgo at 334-3411 if they would like to assist.

The 28 Fair St. fire that broke out at shortly before 11 p.m. Friday was the first working structure with entrapment and rescue within the city since Chawgo took his post some eight years ago.

Although the building—which had a third-story apartment—was “grandfathered in” through city codes, it's believed that the building will now have to adhere to the current code which limits tenements to two stories. “Our aerial apparatus has certainly paid for itself,” said Chawgo.

“There was an adequate egress route and metal fire escape on the north side of the structure, but the tenants were on the front [south] side of the building upon our arrival to the scene,” said Chawgo.

The norwich Chief did go on to say that there were numerous working smoke alarms, and that the point of origin was directly above the kitchen area of the third story apartment in an attic space.

When asked if any sort of foul play was involved, Chawgo replied “absolutely not,” evidenced by the placement of burns on the two victims who have not been identified.

“I believe they were asleep at the time and the fire came right down on them as they sustained burn injuries to the back of thier bodies,” said Chawgo.

Chawgo indicated that had the fire been the result of a “meth lab” as rumored, the victims would have had chemical burns to their face, hands and torso and that a HazMat team would have been notified, none of which happened.

Luckily, the entire second flood had been uninhabited for renovations, and only two first-story apartments along with the third story had active tenants, according to Chawgo.

“County Dispatch, Norwich Police and our mutual aid backup did a fantastic job, and we were able to get everyone out alive,” said Chawgo. “The community members who were looking on were very respectful and didn't get in the way, and I thank them for that.”

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