Flames rip through Utica home during severe storms


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- In the midst of severe thunderstorms Monday evening, firefighters responded to a three-story home engulfed in flames.

Firefighters were delayed due to calls about downed trees and wires trapping people in their cars and homes after heavy winds and rain ripped through the region. Off-duty firefighters were called in to help combat the flames and were on scene shortly after 7 p.m.

A sea of people gathering on the sidewalks watched as the residents fled from their home. The storm caused flooding in Walter Grega's basement and he was pumping the water out when he smelled smoke and quickly evacuated.

In tears, the two residents looked on as their roof was torn open by flames.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri had been walking the streets surveying storm damage when he spotted the fire and stayed until it was contained.

"No one was injured and they responded extremely rapidly, saved the building," said Mayor Palmieri.

He said other officials were currently examining the storm damage across the city.

Chief Russell Brooks said fire marshals are trying to determine if the storm caused the fire.

"I am suspicious because it appears to have started on the upper floor, possibly in the attic. It could be storm related but we haven't ruled out any other causes," said Brooks.

"Currently, the fire is under control, we're putting out some hot spots and the guys are covering up valuables on the first and second floors with tarps and we're backed up 45 other calls so it's going to be a busy night," he said.

The residents are displaced from their home. The official cause of the fire is under investigation.

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