People Jump From Balcony To Flee Burning Massena Motel

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Massena's fire chief says a says the Hillside Motel and apartment complex was engulfed in a "ball of fire" when crews arrived on scene. 

Firefighters were called to the motel on State Route 37 in Massena at about 5:15 a.m.

Flames extensively damaged one section of the complex.

"It was completely engulfed. The whole front of it had a ball of fire coming out. We had a member on scene within 60 seconds and the place was totally engulfed," said Massena Fire Chief Tom Miller.

7 News reporter John Friot said five occupants were taken to Massena Memorial Hospital.

Two were airlifted to a hospital in Syracuse for treatment of burns and severe smoke inhalation.

Click on the picture to hear Friot's report.

Fire investigators are looking into the possibility that one of the occupants  was smoking while using oxygen.

A neighbor told Friot she thought she heard an explosion before the fire broke out.

Chief Miller tells Friot that some residents were already out when firefighters arrived and others were rescued after jumping from a second-floor balcony.

"We had to have some people jump off the back balcony to our firefighters. A couple of them had to jump before we got here and thank God everybody is accounted for," said Miller.

Although the property bears the name "motel", it's actually an apartment complex.

All but two of the 22 apartments were occupied.

Miller said at least 18 people lived in the complex.

The Red Cross is on the scene to assist those who were left homeless.

The property is owned by JoAnne Pallegrino of Massena.

The motel complex was the scene of a fatal fire two years ago and was shut down by code enforcement officials.

It was allowed to reopen after the owner made necessary repairs.

Firefighters from Massena, Hogansburg, Louisville and Helena worked for close to two hours to bring Friday's blaze under control.

The heat was so intense, it melted the vinyl siding of a nearby house.

Quick response, Miller said, gave firefighters a chance to save a large portion of the building.

"We're fortunate here in Massena to have drivers that are stationed at the fire station to bring the first apparatus here quickly," said Miller.

The above photo was taken by Friot.

The photo below, showing the motel fully involved, was posted to the 7 News Facebook page by Sue Green.

See our story from two years ago about the fatal fire.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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