Firefighters scramble to rescue Port Chester senior apartment building residents

·2 min read

PORT CHESTER — More than 100 firefighters scrambled Tuesday morning to save dozens of seniors trapped in an apartment building as smoke and flames billowed from the structure.

Firefighters found a seventh-floor apartment half on fire, with flames coming out of a window in the unit at the Kingsport Apartments near King and Highland streets.

Some residents were in wheelchairs, and it took four firefighters to remove each wheelchair-bound resident from the building, said Chief Herbert Bocchino at the scene.

Cristian Richter, 73, a resident for 13 years, stood outside the building as firefighters and Con Edison workers gathered near the entrance.

Senior citizens rescued from apartment building fire on King Street in Port Chester are led to a bus to stay warm on Tuesday.
Senior citizens rescued from apartment building fire on King Street in Port Chester are led to a bus to stay warm on Tuesday.

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During the fire, he was stuck with his brother and cousin, the latter of whom is bedridden and couldn't leave, on the third floor, with firefighters on standby to evacuate them.

"There wasn't a problem because we were together as a family," he said in Spanish.

On the eighth floor, Denise Stiglianese, 69, was sitting on her couch Tuesday morning when smoke started coming through the vents.

"I thought, 'Oh F,'" said Stiglianese, who has lived in the building for six years. "'I better get the F out of here.'"

She then took the stairs, going with about a dozen seniors on the seventh and eighth floors to evacuate the building.

It's unclear how many people live in the eight-story building, though there are 12 units per floor.

There were no injuries, Bocchino said.

"In a building like this, that can happen very quickly," he said. "In fact, we're very lucky."

The volunteer fire department got an alarm at 11:46 a.m. Police told firefighters there was heavy smoke coming out of the seventh floor.

Around 1 p.m., Bocchino called the fire under control. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though he said it appears unintentional.

About 120 firefighters, including 60 from Port Chester, attacked the blaze.

Except for seventh-floor residents, all were able to return to the building. Those unable to return will be relocated with family or the Red Cross.

Michael de Vulpillieres, a spokesman for Red Cross, said the fire displaced residents in 12 units. So far, three residents have requested emergency assistance.

Eighth-floor resident Joan Cooper, 91, pushed her walker up the building's driveway. Now, she worried about her cat, Joel, who flew under the bed as she evacuated.

"I hope it gets back to halfway normal," she said. "Maybe the building's getting too old, like the rest of us."

The property is run by Community Housing Management Corporation. The building's super referred inquiries to the manager, who didn't respond to a request for comment.

Eduardo Cuevas covers diversity, equity and inclusion in Westchester and Rockland counties. He can be reached at EMCuevas1@lohud.com and followed on Twitter @eduardomcuevas.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Port Chester senior building catches fire, residents evacuated

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