NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Three firefighters were injured early Tuesday afternoon, after a two-alarm fire destroyed a single-family home on Thornbury Road in the far north end of New Rochelle near the Scarsdale border.
A neighbor called 911 at about 12:45 p.m. after seeing flames shooting out of the garage at 159 Thornbury Road in New Rochelle. By the time firefighters arrived on scene, the fire was fully engaged.
“It got a pretty good jump on us,” said New Rochelle Fire Chief Lou DiMeglio.
“The call came in about 12:45 p.m., said DiMeglio. “Our units responded, naturally hampered by the weather and the roads. By the time we got here the fire was through the roof.”
The roads were choked by more than a foot of snow mixed with rain, sleet and ice. Few seem to have been cleared, even North Avenue was barely passable and side streets were often untouched by plows.
“The roads were pretty slippery and we had to take our time, under the normal speed limit we had to stay under them so it took us a little time to get here unfortunately,” said DiMeglio.
With frigid temperatures, snow, sleet, rain, winds gusting in excess of 20 mph whipping the flames and pushing smoke out past Wilmer Road and beyond, adverse weather conditions were a concern.
“Deputy Chief John Reed heard the report of the first arriving engine on the radio and he called for a second alarm right away because of the conditions,” said DiMeglio.
Twenty-seven firefighters responded from New Rochelle along with EMS personnel from both New Rochelle and Scarsdale. Coverage was provide at New Rochelle firehouses through Mutual Aid.
Concern about getting men and equipment to a fire in a blizzard was on the Chief’s mind even before the storm hit.
“It just so happens I put an extra engine company on duty today this morning on overtime at Station 5,” said DiMeglio. “So, I had two engine companies up there which helped get extra people here right away. When the first two units got here we had about eight guys here right away.”
DiMeglio said although they had an idea of what happened, officially the cause of the fire was under investigation.
“We’re pretty sure it was already in the garage somewhere and spread through the attic and throughout the house.”
The owner told fire officials that he had just finished using his snow blower and put the machine away in his garage. He may have spilled some gasoline.
There was an explosion of a propane tank stored in the garage and a ruptured gas line. Con Edison responded to the scene and shut off the gas from the street.
No civilians were injured. The family self-evacuated and were staying with a family across the street.
Three firefighters were injured, none seriously.
One firefighter was injured when a ceiling collapsed on him. He was taken to White Plains Hospital. Two others were treated on the scene for fatigue and smoke inhalation.
Firefighters were able to locate fire hydrants quickly and run lines to the house although hydrants in the North End are spread further apart.
Asked about potential delays locating fire hydrants at a fire scene in winter storm conditions, DeMeglio said “it would be a big help if we could see them when we get here. A lot of times they have people plowing their driveways. The plows come out and cover the fire hydrants. It would be a big help if they could make them visible to us.”
The residents of 159 Thornbury Road were not going to be able to stay in the home any time soon.
“Unfortunately there’s a lot of damage,” said DiMeglio.
Jim Killoran of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester was on scene to offer support to the family.
Jon Thaler is a volunteer fireman in Scarsdale. He was on scene very early and took some excellent photos which he has shared here.