Electrical Fire at High-Rise in Downtown New Rochelle Sparked by Transformer Explosion in Basement; Heavy Smoke, No Injuries

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (December 3, 2022) — A transformer explosion in the basement at a new high-rise apartment building in downtown New Rochelle started a fire which sent acrid, heavy electrical smoke mixed with carbon monoxide and chemicals throughout the building. The smoke was most noticeable outside the building coming from the loading dock area on LeCount Place.

Fire officials said there were no injuries to civilians or firefighters.

“We had a transformer explosion here at the Stella at 10 LeCount,” said Chief Sandor. “Not a lot of fire, a lot of smoke, thick smoke, and in this smoke is carbon monoxide and stuff like that and it goes up through the utility chase, it goes throughout the building,” explained the Chief. “So our members went up and checked all the floors, the building folks were here, management and engineers they all did a good job working with us on ventilation and things of that nature so we were able to clear the floors.”

UPDATE 12/28/22 (Video obtained under FOIL from NRPD)

High-Rise Fire Response Plan

“This was the activation of our high-rise fire response right now because we just don’t have enough people in New Rochelle for a high rise fire right now so the plan is we have what’s called automatic aid…so an alarm comes in with a working fire at one of these addresses automatically Eastchester, Pelham, Larchmont, Yonkers get deployed and they come directly towards our scene instead of just going to a firehouse and waiting for assignment, they come directly towards where the alarm is.”

“It was an above average response, I thought,” said Sandor. “It doesn’t happen often. However, we do discuss this regularly with our automatic aid / mutual aid partners and also members of the department.”

“The department has been doing a great job of going to each of these buildings,” he added.

Residents at The Stella at 10 LeCount Place, which opened in January, were told to shelter place. Tenants returning from outside the building before the explosion were told to shelter in the lobby.

The call went out shortly before 9:30 p.m.

Firefighters from New Rochelle, along with Yonkers, Larchmont, Eastchester, and Pelham fire departments responded directly to these scene. White Plains firefighters staged nearby at the New Rochelle Train Station.

The unusual response is part of the NRFD’s High-Rise Fire Response Plan. Under the plan, a fire at any of the addresses of a high-rise building in downtown New Rochelle triggers “automatic aid” as opposed to mutual aid where firefighters deploy directly to the fire scene as opposed to fire houses.

There were reports of smoke on floors throughout the building all the way up to the 27th floor Penthouse level (27).

Fans were deployed and the building’s ventilation was used by firefighters to clear the smoke. Carbon Monoxide meters were deployed.

UPDATE 10:36 PM: Under control firefighters packing up. Larchmont FD and Pelham FD on scene.

UPDATE 10:44 PM: NRFD Fire Chief Andrew Sandor informs Stella residents that the firefighters under his command have ventilated the smoke from the building and they can soon return to their apartments.

UPDATE 10:44 PM: NRFD Fire Chief Andrew Sandor gives an interview to me explaining what happened and providing a detailed explanation of the NRFD’s High-Rise Fire Response Plan which every resident of a high-rise building in New Rochelle will want to watch. Because the NRFD does not have sufficient manpower to fight a fire in a high-rise building they rely on support from neighboring departments.

“It was in the basement,” said Chief Sandor. “It was the real deal. There was a transformer explosion in the basement, smoke throughout the building.”

Sandor there was some flames but nothing major but “a lot of smoke, real heavy smoke like thick utility kind of smoke”.

Sandor said he hopes at add 4 firefighters over the next year to reach 37 firefighters per shift to better deal with fire response to high-rise buildings.

“New Rochelle high rise response is as appropriate as it can be,” Sandor said. High-rise fire service in Westchester for every city – Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle- no one will ever have an FDNY type set up where they have enough staffing for full high rise working fire response by their own department. All Westchester cities do like what occurred tonight – work with the “automatic aid” response from our mutual aid partners. We train and practice for that.”

UPDATE 12/4/22 8:55 AM: The Stella sent an email to tenants moments ago to say the laundry room in the Cellar will be temporarily closed for the time being as a result of the fire event.

UPDATE 12/4/22 10:46 AM A quick self-guided tour shows the basement is a mess throughout.

UPDATE 12/4/22 5:39 PM The Stella sent a follow up email to tenants this afternoon, “The laundry room, storage units and bicycle storage spaces will remain closed until further notice. If you need to retrieve any of your belongings from the laundry room please contact the concierge desk.” Hard to imagine anything in the storage units is not smoke damaged and possibly water damaged.