Fire consumes row of Newburgh homes, displacing 33

All four affected buildings were condemned by the City of Newburgh, though tenants were allowed inside Monday morning to try to salvage belongings.

Katerina Belales and Ben Nandy

Apr 1, 2024, 10:08 AM

Updated 14 days ago

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An official source told News 12 Monday that a person of interest was being interviewed in connection to a fire that consumed a row of homes Sunday night on Lutheran Street, and samples were taken from the site as part of the fire investigation.
The fire displaced 33 people, including three babies.
All four affected buildings were condemned by the City of Newburgh, though tenants were allowed inside Monday morning to try to salvage belongings.
"This is a disaster," Alejandro Macareno said with a chuckle in Spanish. "I was just enjoying my Sunday afternoon and evening ... I was watching a movie and was going to have some beers. Then someone knocked on all the doors."
The person knocking was a neighbor, Macareno said, frantically informing everyone that a fire had jumped from the vacant building next door to their building.
Macareno lost about everything, except for a soccer ball, two bags of clothes and partially melted guitar.
Several residents, including Macareno said they were especially upset because they lost all their identifying documents including licenses, passports and immigration papers.
City officials said in a press release the fire started at 36 Lutheran St., and spread to buildings on both sides.
Several tenants told News 12, 36 Lutheran seemed to be abandoned, though they would often see people entering and leaving the building.
City officials reported that three people sustained minor burns from the fire.
Macareno said that news is a blessing.
"Thank God," he said. "Because there wasn't any human loss."
City manager Todd Venning told News 12 at the scene that the city's planning department is helping the Red Cross arranged temporary hotel accommodations for the displaced residents.
The vice president of the city's firefighters' union said staffing changes, intended by city administrators to save costs and increase efficiency, made for a slower response Sunday than the firefighters would have preferred.
Ideally, the department would immediately send two trucks – a ladder truck and an engine – to a fire like Sunday's.
In this case, the ladder truck arrived immediately, but before sending the engine the department first had to call in other firefighters to staff it, causing a delay, the union rep said.
Surrounding departments responded to provide mutual aid.
Due to aging infrastructure with limited pipe size additional fire crews were called in to tap other nearby hydrants, city officials said, to feed more water to the units on scene.
Newburgh police and fire investigation units from both Orange County and Newburgh are investigating.


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