Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

A dozen Peekskill residents homeless after Sunday morning blaze

Everyone escapes unharmed from Orchard Street house fire 

On Sunday morning, Kimberly Llapa, 22, decided to get dressed after putting her makeup on and take a trip to TJ Maxx to return some clothing. She’s now on the receiving end of the Peekskill community’s generosity after all her clothing is in ashes from the two-alarm fire at 1017 Orchard Street that rendered the two family home uninhabitable. 

In a Sunday evening interview with the Herald, Kimberly related how she’s usually asleep at the time her parents, Carmen Guiracopha and Manuel Llapa, are at church with her two younger sisters – but this Sunday was different. “It was a nice day and I wanted to get out.” She was applying her makeup while her 6-year-old daughter Daniella was getting dressed to go with her.  

In her first floor bedroom in the back of the house she smelled something akin to when a candle goes out. She went to the living room to investigate if her mother left a candle burning and didn’t find anything. “It didn’t cross my mind that my house was burning,” she said. Returning to her bedroom she noticed the smell was getting more pronounced. Looking out the window she saw smoke on the concrete driveway, and opening her window she saw flames that engulfed her daughter’s scooter. 

The back of the house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. (Photo by Peekskill Volunteer Ambulance Corps)

That’s when Llapa realized the house was on fire. “Daniella get your jacket, let’s get out of the house,” she told her daughter. She went upstairs and knocked on the door of her upstairs neighbor who was holding a newborn baby, and told the woman the house was on fire. She discovered the woman’s husband was in the shower when she was knocking on the door. Thanks to Llapa’s quick action, the family evacuated safely. 

Outside on the Orchard Street sidewalk, Llapa’s daughter was crying about their cats, Nikko and Neko, who had been sleeping on the couch. Her younger cat came out with her, but the older one was under a table and didn’t make it out. Firefighters brought it out and placed it on the front porch. 

Still in her pajamas, Kimberly knew she needed to move her new car which was in the driveway behind the house where smoke was coming from. Luckily she had grabbed her keys before she left. After moving her car, she realized that she needed to call her parents. She tried reaching her dad, but since he was in church, he had his phone muted. She texted her sister Jennifer, 17, who was also in church and alerted her dad. Manuel Llapa left the service and came to the house first. “He’s the man of the house,” Llapa remarked,  recalling that her mother and sisters came after her dad arrived.  

They watched as dozens of firefighters from Peekskill, Lake Mohegan, Montrose VA, Montrose, Continental Village, Yorktown, Buchanan, and Croton battled the blaze that was engulfing the entire back of the house. 

“When the call came in at 10:18 and our engines rounded onto Main Street, they saw the cloud of smoke coming from the back of the house,” said Fire Chief Jim Seymour.  “All three floors were on fire.” They brought a hose down to the back to knock it down and then put hose lines in the front door to put it out in the inside,” explained Seymour.  

Fire officials have determined that the origin was electrical in nature and have pinpointed and focused on an area where there is a junction box underneath the first floor porch in the back. “It was smoldering for a little while back there.” 

“Right in that area there are electrical wires,” said Seymour adding that a junction box is a way of extending electrical current from the main fuse panel.   

Flames shoot from the roof, on other side of the roof a cat was crouched while firemen fought the blaze. (Photo by Jim Striebich)

Later in the afternoon the sun came out and helped the wind die down. He noted that this was a wind driven fire and if the wind was blowing in the right direction, the fire would likely have spread to the corner of North Division and Cortlandt Streets. “There is a natural alleyway behind the house and there are a lot of attached backyards there.” As it is, the houses on both sides have radiant heat damage where their vinyl siding has melted, according to the Chief.  

Seymour said Peekskill’s Office of Emergency Management indicated there were 12 adults and children living in the house that is a legal two-family. He couldn’t indicate if there was a separate family living on the third floor or if it was part of the second floor apartment. Peekskill property cards indicate the home is owned by Davide and Claver Calise of Cortlandt Manor.  

The Verplanck and Putnam Valley Fire Departments covered for Peekskill until 3:45 pm when the final units left the scene. 


About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
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