Three-alarm fire in Troy displaces dozens

Andrea Currie

News Editor

A three-alarm fire struck three buildings in downtown Troy Friday night, one of which was owned by a Hudson Valley alumnus. The fire caused thousands of dollars in property damage and displaced several dozen people, including a family who had lived in the same building for decades

The fire started on the second-floor rear porch of 233 4th Street and soon spread to the neighboring row houses at 354 and 352 Washington Streets.

Michael Warner, Chief Gas Mechanic for National Grid, had been part of a team working in front of 233 4th Street all Friday afternoon. “All of a sudden smoke came round the corner,” he said. “I thought our truck was on fire.”

Debbie Davis, who lives at 235 4th Street, across the street from the affected buildings, placed the first 911 call to report the fire, at 5:41 p.m. She said that in the time it took her to make the call, the fire spread from being a small second-floor fire to a huge blaze.

“I’m yelling out the window, telling them to get out of the house!” Davis recalled, speaking of the building’s inhabitants.

“They’ve lived there all their lives. It’s devastating,” said Davis. She said that the buildings at 352 and 354 Washington Street were all inhabited by members of the same family, the Marcuses, including siblings, nieces, nephews, and in-laws. “They’re all related one way or another.”

The Marcuses’ situation is further complicated because they lost their fire insurance ten years ago, said one displaced resident, who said they were denied renewal because they had installed space heaters in the building, which does not have a furnace.

George Regan, a Hudson Valley alumnus (class of 1973) who owns the Freihofer building on the corner of Washington and 4th Streets, said that he was actually happy with the outcome. “Nobody died,” he said. “All my tenants got out.”

The Freihofer building was home to several people, including Regan’s daughter. It was also the offices of the USA Track and Field Adirondack Association, and neighborhood meetings were regularly held there.

Troy police sergeant Jack McMahon confirmed that the fire started in the rear of the Freihofer building. “It comes in as an alarm, a fire. The responding fire department immediately calls in for a second alarm. You could see fire from the street, you know, breaking through, on our arrival,” he said.

“First responders were within a minute,” McMahon said. “The buildings were evacuated upon the arrival [of the firefighters].” All people inside were safely evacuated, though several pets were lost in the fire.

McMahon said that the buildings could be repaired. “They’ll have to go in there, they’ll have to cut this down, rip the ceilings down. They’re gonna be here for a while,” he said, but added, “There’s no structural damage; the bricks aren’t collapsing.”

As to the cause of the fire, McMahon said, “No idea if it’s suspicious. … So far it’s just the preliminary report. It’s unknown as to the origin.”

Pointing to the firefighters ripping off sections of the roofline of 352 and 354 Washington Street, which appeared to be burnt out, McMahon said, “See them hit that, see the sparks coming out of there? That’s where the fire hides. If they didn’t do that, and they left, that would start right back up again.”

Firefighters subdued the blaze about two hours after Davis first reported it. Troy Fire Chief Tom Garrett confirmed that the Troy fire department was the first to arrive on the scene.

  1. J. Seney, Deputy Fire Chief from Albany, said that he and six others from the Albany fire department arrived about 20 minutes into the fire. Big fires like this are very sporadic, he said. “It could be twice a week or once every six months.”

Seney, an Albany native, said that his daughter is a managerial accounting major at Hudson Valley. Several Troy residents recognized him while he was at the scene, and one stopped to photograph him and tell him that he’d done a fantastic job.

Local resident Sarah Allen began a GoFundMe campaign Friday night to help the displaced families. As of 1 p.m. Sunday it had raised more than $2800. Troy City Councilman Ken Zalewski is now hosting the campaign. Monetary donations can be made at and clothing and household items for the families can be dropped off at the Catholic Youth Organization at 237 4th Street in Troy.


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