Community scrambles to aid those left homeless by devastating fire

Sixteen unit condo a total loss


Photo by Robert Ferguson

The blaze last year took firefighters how many hours. (Photo by Robert Ferguson)

As the 25 people who lived at 3 Woods End Circle in the Hillcrest Park condominium complex come to terms with the disastrous fire that destroyed their homes early Thursday morning, the Peekskill community is mobilizing to assist them. The Red Cross has assisted some people with housing and others are staying with family, said Robert Ferrara of Ferrara Management, which has managed the property for five years. 


Remains of 3 Woods End Circle this morning.

But as of Thursday evening there is no formal system in place for people to contribute clothes and toiletries for the people who’ve lost all their possessions in the predawn fire. 

Rotary Club of Peekskill members created a monetary fund through their foundation. Donations can be made here for the displaced families. The Let It Shine Boutique in Verplanck has women’s clothes and some toddler clothes and housewares that victims of the fire can come to pick out for free, but should email i[email protected] before stopping by to make sure the store is open. The Bean Runner Cafe on Esther Place has set up a box to collect gift cards for people who have lost everything as a result of the fire. 

Peekskill Coffee House owner Sunny Cover said her employees reached out to co-worker Jenna Reilly, who has been working there on and off for eight years, and set up a GoFundMe page when they learned that Reilly lived in the building that was razed today. “She’s safe, she got her two dogs and one cat out,” said Cover. Her first job in Peekskill was with Cover at the Coffee House. “We’re like family to one another,” she added. 

Cover, who set up collection boxes for people to donate, quickly realized the outpouring would be overwhelming, and she’s discouraging people from dropping additional items off at the Coffee House. “This has gotten way bigger than I expected,” she said, and noted that she had to turn someone away with a truckload of items to give to the victims. Until there is a formal location to drop off items and match them with people who need them, Cover said she can’t accept any more donations at this time, as the coffee house has simply run out of space to store items. 

This is just one area of the Peekskill Coffee House where donations began to pile up today after word spread that PCH was a location for contributions. The Coffee House is no longer accepting donations.


The fire was called in shortly before 2 a.m. for Woods End Circle – a short loop of apartment buildings that borders the Bear Mountain Parkway. When firefighters arrived, they learned someone was trapped in a second floor unit of building three. After pushing through intense smoke and fire to locate and rescue the final occupant, flames became so intense that firefighters had to retreat from inside the building and continue attacking the fire from outside. 

Because of water pressure issues on Woods End Circle, which is at a dead end in the condominium complex, firefighters stretched a thousand foot hose across Bear Mountain Parkway to tap a Frost Lane hydrant. The parkway remained closed during the morning rush hour with traffic backed up bumper to bumper through local roads, exacerbated by the foggy weather.


The building had to come down because it was unsafe to leave it standing. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

According to Chief James Seymour, Peekskill Fire Department was assisted by 80 to 100 additional firefighters from towns and villages throughout northern Westchester.  

Peekskill School District personnel stood ready to provide assistance to students affected by the blaze. “Anytime there is a fire in the Peekskill community, if a student is impacted, they are eligible to receive a school readiness kit, which includes clothing, a winter coat, and school supplies,” said district spokesperson Laura Belfiore..  

Brianna Ferguson, a PHS senior and student journalist who lives at Hillcrest Park spoke with her neighbor Denise Dariwala this morning about the fire: “I’m devastated because four of my friends lived in that building.”

Denise Dariwala this morning after talking to student journalist Brianna Ferguson.

“This is terrible, especially starting the new year. Thank God it wasn’t snowing so the fire trucks could come through. I couldn’t even go to my friends to see if they were okay because of the smoke. This could happen to anyone, so all we can do is pray,” said Dariwala, who has lived in Hillcrest Park for 21 years. 

The building that was home to 25 people in 16 units was razed this morning.

Peekskill’s fire and building departments requested that for safety the building be razed, said Ferrara. By late morning, the sixteen-unit condominium building had been fully demolished; the former home to twenty five Peekskill residents reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble. Miraculously – and thanks to quick action by hundreds of firefighters from Peekskill and Northern Westchester, nobody was killed nor seriously injured in the fire.