Fire chief says three saved in Michael Walsh fire

By Gary Liberatore

(WKTV) - Utica firefighters were called to the Michael Walsh Apartments on Gray Ave. in Utica just before 5 a.m. Monday.

Upon arrival, Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks say responding firefighters found a woman and two young children screaming from their third-floor window.

"They immediately laddered the building, broke the windows out, and rescued an adult female and two children.  And at the same time another crew went up the stairs, went around back and grabbed a male, an adult male."

Brooks says that male is believed to be the husband of the woman pulled from the front window.

All four were taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center and are being treated for smoke inhalation.

Utica Fire Marshal Gerald Foster says investigators were on scene looking into a cause all day on Monday, but so far, one has not been determined.

Foster says four other peopel from the building were taken to Faxton St. Luke's Healthcare for symptoms of what was believed to be minor smoke inhalation.

Meanwhile, Jose Roca, who lives in a home across the street from the apartment building says he was outside at 4:45 a.m., starting his van to go to work when he heard screaming.

"I started looking around, I didn't see anybody," Roca said.  "Then I heard pushing, something trying to break, so I figured it had to be one of these windows, so I looked up and I seen her.  The screen must have come down, so I started asking her, 'Are you all right?'

"She was like, 'No, no, there's fire, I can't get out,' she said.  Is there anybody there with you?  So she put them at the window, she started getting really desperate.  I said, 'Please don't throw those kids, don't throw them.' "

Roca says he called 911 and convinced the woman to wait for help.

Brooks says it's thanks to the 911 call and the quick work by responding firefighters that we did not see a second fatal fire in the city in just over a week.  He says if the woman and her kids and husband had been trapped in that apartment much longer, he believes we would have had four more deaths,

"Oh yeah, seconds or minutes.  I don't like to inject politics into anything, but currently they're (city officials) talking about cutting firefighters, and had there been one less firefighter there or say the firehouse on Whitesboro Street was closed or the one of Sunset Avenue and Shepard Place, the results might not have been the same."

An infant was killed in a house fire on Dudley Avenue on March 9.

American Red Cross of the Mohawk Valley Disaster Program Manager Michael Schwartz says his organization helped 28 displaced residents from the apartment building on Monday, mostly with food, but two families were also provided clothing and shelter.

Schwartz says he was very appreciative of CENTRO, which provided a bus to keep the residents of the apartment building warm, after they were evacuated,

The temperature at the time of the fire was around zero degrees.

The Michael Walsh Apaertments are located on Gray Avenue, just off of York Street on the city's west side, not far from Chester's Flowers.

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