Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Fire on Fremont Street leaves 32 people unhoused

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Flames shoot out of the roof of 152 Fremont Street on Tuesday night.  Photo courtesy of Kempter Fire Wire. 

Thirty two people went to bed Tuesday night at a place other than their home when their house at 152 Fremont Street was the scene of a one alarm fire that started because of an overload of electrical appliances.  

According to Peekskill Fire Chief Jim Seymour, the blaze called in at 6:50 p.m. started on the third floor and was traced to an overloaded electrical circuit which caused wiring to overheat. “There’s no way to prove it, but the amount of appliances in the building could overload the circuits.”  

The building, owned by Jaime and Antonio Reyes since 2005, is listed as a three-unit home on city records. Of the 32 people who lived in the building, 24 were assisted by the Red Cross and stayed at the Inn on the Hudson Tuesday night. The remaining eight went to the homes of friends. No one was injured while getting out of the multi-family house with just the clothes on their backs. 

The building was deemed unsafe, said Seymour, noting that the first and second floors had water damage and most of the fire damage was confined to the third floor. The electricity, gas and water were shut off to the building and a placard was placed on the front porch saying it was uninhabitable. 

The home on Fremont on Wednesday morning. It is one of three houses on that side of the block and has been added onto over the years. Before it was owned by the Reyes brothers, Bruno and Santina Valente lived in it. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

”The city is taking this issue seriously and after reviewing all the information regarding this property’s past history we will be determining the next course of action,” said City Manager Matt Alexander, who mentioned that he conferred with legal counsel before speaking with the Herald. 

A new city ordinance that went into effect in May of 2022 requires a fire inspection every 18 months for multi-family dwellings with three or more units. Alexander said the city is close to hiring a full-time inspector to enforce that law and hadn’t hired someone for that position because they were “hung up with requirements” for the candidates. This position is for residential inspections. Commercial inspections are done by the city’s firefighters. 

When Peekskill Fire Department’s Cause and Origin team concluded their investigation into Tuesday’s fire, residents were allowed inside for about 10 to 15 minutes accompanied by fire department personnel to retrieve whatever belongings and money they could take with them. The scene was cleared by 11 p.m. 

The residents who were assisted by the Red Cross were taken by a bus, loaned by the Buchanan Fire Department, to Peekskill’s Central Firehouse where they filled out paperwork and received vouchers to stay at the Inn on the Hudson. According to Alexander, they received vouchers for two or three nights. 

As he did with the Hillcrest fire in January, Alexander is asking the Salvation Army to coordinate community outreach for the victims of the fire. 

At the frigid, wind-whipped fireground assisting Peekskill FD were the Mohegan, Buchanan, Yorktown, and Montrose Veteran’s Administration fire departments, while the Montrose and Croton fire departments provided coverage for Peekskill. 

Fire chief Seymour said he believed Jaime Reyes, landlord of record, was present at the scene. According to neighbors Reyes doesn’t live in the house and has hired a private carting company to pick up the household trash. According to Alexander the city won’t pick up trash if too much is put out and the property owner has unpaid tickets for that. 

 

A child’s bike sits alongside the fire hose at the scene of the fire Tuesday night. According to a neighbor, there were very few children living at the house.  (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

The last fire on that block of Fremont was in July of 2015, when a four-story home at 141 Fremont Street was destroyed. The Hispanic Community Corporation was available to help the 105 people who were displaced when the 20-unit building burned. That building has since been rebuilt.   

 

About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante