The Fire at Court Street

The flames may be gone, but the heat is still on

Story by Keiichi Ishizuka

Matt Tynon
Matt Tynon graduated from Clinton Community College this spring and now works at a local grocery store.

photo courtesy of Matt Tynon

Matt Tynon was watching television in his living room at around 3 a.m. on October 1. Although it seemed like just a typical Saturday night, something unexpected happened, something that has changed his life.

Comfortably dozing away, he suddenly heard noises. He looked around, and saw that the wall was red, and fire was coming in. He stood up and looked for a fire extinguisher. He found one and unloaded it onto the fire, but it didn't stop. He then realized his roommates were sleeping, and hurried to their rooms to wake them.

“Everything was so chaotic and happening so quickly,” Tynon says. “There really was no time to think about anything.” There was no time for him to even feel fear; the fire was coming toward him. For that moment, all he could do was just leave the room and secure the safety of his roommates.

“Everything was so chaotic and happening so quickly. There really was no time to think about anything.”

Luckily, no one was hurt, but they lost a lot of possessions. “I lost a collection of books I've had since age 13 or 14,” Tynon says. “Stuff I wrote, my notes…I don't have any of it anymore.”

When he went outside of the apartment, there were a number of people around. Some were talking loudly, as onlookers thronged. All of a sudden, a man jumped out of a second floor window. As this was happening, flames continued to surround the apartment.

The apartments at 92 Court Street were completely destroyed.. Tynon, a graduate of Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh, New York, is one of 32 people whose apartment building was destroyed by the fire.

the fire at 92 Court Street
The fire seems to have been caused by the explosion of a propane tank.

Photo coutesy of Michael Edwards

 

The fire started from the balcony, and after it ignited a propane tank, it exploded, sending the building up in flames. Court Street's early morning sky was cloudy with smoke. Plattsburgh City Fire Department, Plattsburgh City Police, and University Police responded to it quickly by preventing the fire from spreading to other buildings.

“The fire was brought under control in a couple of hours,” says Captain Michael Edwards of Plattsburgh Fire Department. More than 40 firefighters joined the mission, and they had pulled out multiple people. But through the mission, what bothered the firefighters were illegally parked cars in front of the apartment building, which delayed the mission.

In mid-October, Mayor Daniel Stewart claimed that the 92 Court Street apartments should not be rebuilt. Because the apartments were a bit far from the street and the parking lot was so small, a ladder truck of the Fire Department could not access the appropriate sites.

“If anyone wants to rebuild there, they are going to have to do a heck of a job showing that it can be done safely”

His statement surprised the owners who were planning to rebuild the apartment. But Stewart's will might be stronger than the owners'.“If anyone wants to rebuild there, they are going to have to do a heck of a job showing that it can be done safely,” Stewart recently told the Press-Republican, Plattsburgh's local newspaper. The Building Inspector's Office is now investigating the existing density requirements of the apartment buildings, but Stewart doubts it will pass the test.

Captain Edwards is sympathetic with both sides, but he also doesn't want to see something like this happen again. After the incident, he got a copy of a disc containing pictures and videos of the fire taken by students at Plattsburgh State. Among those pictures, there was one that clearly captured the fire. “One guy said that is the picture of the devil,” he says. “It almost looks like a face.”

After the fire, the officials from Clinton Community College and Plattsburgh State University College immediately got to work. They secured the students a place to stay, offering guest rooms for those who were displaced by the fire.

The fire destroyed everything they had, right down to clothes and books. In addition to offering guest rooms, the college is offering textbooks and suggesting counselor services. Yet, nothing has been confirmed to secure the lives they used to live. In many ways, the fire still doesn't seem to be completely extinguished.

 

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The Incident on Clinton Street

Shortly after the fire at Court Street, there was another incident that affected students from Plattsburgh State University College. On Thursday, October 21, six students were displaced from their apartment at 38 Clinton Street after the roof caved in.

These students are now living in guest rooms on campus at Plattsburgh State. No one was hurt by the incident, but some of residents' belongings were destroyed. Sodexho Campus Services is now providing meal services for the students. The Plattsburgh College Foundation has provided up to $50 for the replacement of their new textbooks.
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