Heroes emerge in fire at Mary D. Buck Apartments

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) -  Fire struck a first-floor unit at Mary D. Buck Apartments in Whitesboro around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The fire was contained to the apartment, but smoke filled the entire complex, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 people, most of whom were elderly and had special physical needs.

Tenant Juanita Kallassy didn't have time to put on her prosthetic leg.

"I says, 'Tom, I don't have my leg on!'  He says, 'It doesn't matter!  Go to the end of the hall and I'll get you down,'" said Kallasy.

"She was in a wheelchair.  I had all that were disabled go to the stairwell, told them I'd be right there," said Tom Murphy, resident manager.

But that valiant declaration left Murphy with a line of tenants in wheelchairs at the stairwell; all of whom needed to get out of the complex -- and none of whom could make it out on their own.

"All of a sudden, Tom comes behind me, lift me straight up! Boom! Carried me down the stairs!"  said a grateful Kallassy.

Murphy says there wasn't much thought involved.

"There wasn't the time to think, just do it," Murphy said. "Everybody that could make it down, made it down, and the ones that couldn't, I carried them."

Assistant Whitesboro Fire Chief Duane Evans says all responding fire departments, law enforcement and emergency personnel worked hard and well together in order to make the evacuation of more than 100 people run smoothly.

The fire is still under investigation.  Evans says it appears to have started in the bedroom of the first-floor apartment.

The occupant of the burned apartment was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica for smoke inhalation. 

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