Community comes together to help displaced residents
It was not what Honeoye Falls Fire Department Chief Cory Trewer would have envisioned in his second full week of his tenure as the department’s chief, but thankfully no one was injured when a major fire broke out at the Seneca Place Apartments on Pine Trail in the village of Honeoye Falls shortly after midnight on January 14.
A female resident in Apartment 201 placed the first 911 call, stating that there was a fire in her apartment. Shortly after that call, the Monroe County 911 center received several other calls for a structure fire with several apartments on fire at the apartment building. Not only was Honeoye Falls Fire Department dispatched, but also mutual aid assistance from Mendon Fire Department and Rush Fire Department.
“The original call stating that there was a fire in an apartment could be anything from a stove or microwave on fire, so that surprised me when I pulled up and saw how much the fire had spread,” Trewer stated in a phone interview.
When Trewer and Assistant Chief Tyler Zavitz arrived, two Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who had gotten to the scene about a minute-and-half prior, were already helping residents out. The majority of the residents on the side of the building closest to Pine Trail (where the fire was) were out of the building, having been awakened by the building’s fire alarms or by other residents or the deputies pounding on their doors. Residents on the opposite of the building, which is split by a one story office area, were the ones still exiting the building.
“The scene was extremely chaotic with a lot of people in the parking lot; they were shaken up and some of them were yelling that pets were inside,” Trewer stated. “There was also a heavy fire load with a lot of smoke and flames. We didn’t know if we still had people trapped inside so we declared a second alarm.”
That upgrade to a second alarm brought additional equipment and manpower from Lima Fire Department, East Avon Fire Department and Henrietta Fire Department.
Chief Trewer stated that firefighters mounted an aggressive interior attack, putting the fire out in apartments 200 and 201, to keep the fire from spreading throughout the inside of the building.
They also fought the fire from the outside as the fire was spreading across the attic and roof of the building.
“The building’s fire walls only go up to the attic floor, so the fire was already working its way across the attic and through the roof,” Trewer said. “The roof over the apartments on fire was already starting to collapse when we got there.”
Two apartments were completely gutted by the fire with smoke and water damage to eight more. Some of the water damage was also due to the fact that the sprinkler alarm was activated as were smoke/fire alarms.
Although Honeoye Falls-Mendon Volunteer Ambulance was at the scene, there were no injuries to either residents or firefighters. While firefighters were extinguishing the blaze, the Pinehurst Senior Living Facility, across Pine Trail from the apartments, welcomed apartment residents into the common areas of Pinehurst so they could stay warm.
While several pets, including three cats, one rabbit and a parakeet were rescued from the flames and accounted for, unfortunately two parakeets did not survive the fire.
Investigators from the Monroe County Fire Bureau were investigating the cause of the fire during the day last Friday (January 14).
“They were looking at the outside balcony of apartment 201,” Trewer said. “I am not 100 percent sure as to the cause as I have not received an official report from the fire investigators. Thankfully the fire was not worse. The flames were traveling from east to west across the roof, but there was no prevailing wind to carry the embers to other buildings and there was no extreme cold or a lot of snow.”
Trewer said that it was his understanding that the American Red Cross, which also responded to the scene, was assisting 15 residents as a couple of other families were staying with relatives or friends in the area. He does not know when those residents whose apartments had water and smoke damage would be let back into their apartments.
Chief Trewer thanks the Livingston County Office of Emergency Management for their coordination in dispatching the Lima and East Avon firefighters as well as the assistance from the Pittsford Fire Department and Egypt Fire Department, which provided fill-in trucks and manpower at the Honeoye Falls Fire Hall while HFFD worked the incident. Pittsford provided an engine while Egypt provided an aerial truck. He said he did not know why the Egypt Fire Department, which is located in the town of Perinton close to the border with Wayne County, was dispatched when other closer departments have aerial trucks (Pittsford has two aerial trucks, Bushnells Basin Fire Department one and Fishers Fire Department one) but said the Egypt Fire Chief stated they were happy to help out. Trewer said he would try to find out the answer as to why Egypt was dispatched sometime early this week.
The American Red Cross was putting up the residents displaced by the fire in hotels for a few nights.
Four churches in the village of Honeoye Falls have sprung into action to assist these folks over the coming weeks. Officials at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Honeoye Falls United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church and St. Paul of the Cross are asking community members to donate either cash or gift cards (Target, WalMart, Wegmans, Tops, Aldi or food chains such as Panera, etc. as the residents would not have the ability to cook for themselves in the hotels). St. John’s Episcopal has a locked mailbox that is checked daily and gift cards can be placed in that mailbox.
In addition, the Honeoye Falls-Mendon Rotary Club (check donations can be sent to Honeoye Falls Rotary Foundation, PO Box 415, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472), the Honeoye Falls-Lima-Mendon Kiwanis and Love Leads Us (a drop off point for gift cards in Lima at 1450 Rochester Street, Room 209 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or contact Jonathan Stills at 420-7442 to set up a drop off time outside of those hours) are also accepting monetary donations. Love Leads Us is collecting tax deductible donations via their Facebook fundraiser at their page Love Leads Us. Please make sure you note on the check/money order that the donation is for the victims of the Seneca Place fire.