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As many as 8 people injured, one critically, in Ogdensburg high-rise fire

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 2:07 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - It was a harrowing scene at Riverview Towers in Ogdensburg Tuesday as a fire inside the high-rise left as many as 8 people injured, including one firefighter.

Officials said one resident was critically injured and was flown to a trauma center in Syracuse.

The rest of the people who were injured were rushed to Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. The hospital is asking people to avoid coming there if they don’t have a medical emergency.

Riverview Towers, a property operated by the Ogdensburg Housing Authority, is home to 104 residents, according to OHA Executive Director Cheryl Douglass. She said 85 of the 100 units in the building were occupied.

Officials said the fire broke out at 10:39 a.m. in a 6th-floor apartment and spread to a second unit. Pictures from the scene show flames shooting from a window.

According to Ogdensburg City Manager and Fire Chief Stephen Jellie, the occupant of the apartment where the fire started is the person who was critically injured. The resident was flown to a trauma center in Syracuse, he said.

Firefighters used ladder trucks to pull some residents through apartment windows to rescue them from the smoke and fire.

“Getting everyone evacuated in a timely manner, while simultaneously fighting the fire, and limiting the damage and limiting the spread of smoke, was challenging,” said Jellie.

Mayor Mike Skelly said he arrived about 20 minutes after fire broke out.

“Quite a bit of smoke coming out of one apartment, and other people were looking out their windows trying to get air and looking to be rescued,” he said. “It was pretty frightening and smoke was heavy. The people were looking to get out.”

The building’s sprinkler system and fire walls worked, helping limit the fire. Firefighters credited residents for following emergency plans.

“The occupants certainly deserve a lot of credit today. The fire safety plans that they have in place worked today. People understood to stay in their apartments, keep the door closed, and wait for firefighters to arrive and help get you evacuated,” said Jellie.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter for displaced residents at Ogdensburg Free Academy, where cots have been set up. Officials said Red Cross staffers are coming in from as far away as Watertown and Plattsburgh and are prepared to help 100 people.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg is opening Wadhams Hall, a former seminary just outside the city, to temporarily house displaced residents. Douglass said there are 50 units available and displaced residents will be bused there Tuesday night. She also said most residents are staying with friends or family.

Officials said firefighters checked all of the apartments in the high-rise to make sure everyone got out of the building. Everyone was accounted for.

Officials said the fire was extinguished by around 12:30 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

At least seven other fire departments arrived to help the Ogdensburg department battle the blaze and evacuate residents.

Power has been cut to the building, which sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

Jellie said the building could be empty for another 2 to 3 months due to access to materials and contractors, and the need to get an engineer to assess the damage in all the apartments.

Douglass said she has been in touch with an architect who will check out the building.

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