Could Tragic Friday the 13th Fire in Wappingers Have Been Prevented?
Could a massive fire that left dozens of Hudson Valley families homeless have been prevented?
On the morning of Friday the 13th, a fire broke out at the Brookside Garden Apartments just off Route 9 in Wappingers Falls. According to the Wappingers Falls police and fire departments, the fire was contained in a small section of the building and was quickly extinguished. After the fire department left, however, another fire kicked up and completely destroyed the apartment complex.
"Second Fire" Destroys Building Later in the Day
Police happened to be at Brookside Garden Apartments for an unrelated incident just before 2 p.m. when they discovered smoke and fire at the apartment complex once again. The Fire Department was dispatched, but by the time they arrived on the scene, the building was already engulfed in flames.
According to police, a preliminary investigation has resulted in the determination that neither fire was suspicious. What is still unclear, however, is if the initial fire was prematurely thought to be fully extinguished.
An official report by the Village of Wappingers Police doesn't specify where the second fire was discovered, and if it could have possibly been related to the first one. Residents are claiming that the initial fire was "reignited."
Images and videos from the fire are hard to watch. One occupant of a different building in the complex posted a video of their neighbors' homes being completely destroyed.
Michele Blauvelt-Dyson says that 16 families were displaced in the fire, including friends of hers with two young boys aged 9 and 12.
History of "Extinguished" Fire Kicking Back Up in Wappingers
This wouldn't be the first time a fire was thought to be extinguished in Wappingers Falls before kicking back in and destroying a building. In 2020 an apartment building at 10 Market Street was destroyed by fire after it was believed that a smaller fire caused by a welder was extinguished. The fire eventually displaced 25 adults and four children and closed businesses including the former Mario's Sandwich Shop.
Vincent Dunn is a retired New York City firefighter who was with the department for 42 years. He has warned fire departments about prematurely declaring structure fires extinguished, sharing his own experiences with fires that officials believed were out that were still smoldering in hidden areas.
It's unclear if that happened in this case, but an investigation is still ongoing.
Families Now Homeless, Funds Established
Ash Izzo has started a GoFundMe for her and her eight-year-old daughter. The single mother says that they have lost "everything except the clothes on their back." As of Monday, just $250 of her $15,000 goal was raised.
Another fund has been established for another mother and her two children. Jess and her children have also been left with nothing but what they had when leaving their apartment. A photo shows that everything they owned was completely destroyed.
The fund is asking for help in purchasing new clothes and securing another apartment for the mother and her two children.
Families affected by the fire who were unable to find family or friends to temporarily move in with have been staying at a shelter established by the Red Cross at Wappingers Junior High School.
According to statistics, only about half of apartment dwellers purchase renter's insurance policies. The relatively cheap insurance generally costs around $15 a month. Renters aren't covered by their landlord's policy, so experts suggest that anyone renting a home purchase insurance that can cover not only all of their losses but also pay for temporary housing at a hotel.
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