At 3:45am on Sunday morning, Nanuet FD was alerted to respond to a reported structure fire at 11 West Palmer Ave. A blast of arctic air had yielded unseasonably frigid temperatures, with overnight lows in the single and negative digits.
Shortly after the alarm was dispatched, utility crews working in the area reported to 44-Control that there was, in fact, an active fire inside the single family residence. Arriving on scene minutes later, Chief Chris Koester (8-1) & Asst Chief Billy Schoenleber (8-3) reported fire showing out of an upstairs bedroom window, and no sign of any residents having left the building.
Crews from first arriving 8-EQ, led by Lieutenant Joe Koester (8-5) made an aggressive attack on the fire with a single hose-line. Their efforts were able to keep the fire contained to only a single bedroom & adjacent bathroom.
Fearing trapped occupants, crews from 8-1500, led by Captain BJ Ready (8-4) attempted a primary search. Upon entering the house, firefighters were met with tremendous quantities of debris cluttering the home. These "Collyer's-Mansion" type conditions hampered firefighters moving throughout the building, but determined to search for any occupants, volunteers pressed on.
Seeing the commotion of firetrucks, police cars and ambulances on the scene, neighbors began to venture out into the cold night to inform rescuers that the home's lone occupant was, in fact, away on vacation and that the house was empty. Primary and secondary searches later confirmed this to be true.
As is common with residential fires, firefighters climbed to the roof and utilized powerful saws to cut a ventilation hole in the roof, thus alleviating the tremendous heat and smoke from the firefighters working below.
Neighboring West Nyack FD (Dept 24) was dispatched to provide a F.A.S.T. team. FAST teams respond to any possible or confirmed fire in order to function as an emergency rescue team for firefighters who may get hurt or injured during initial fire attack.
Pearl River FD (Dept 12) was also called in to provide additional assistance.
Sub-zero temperatures quickly caused any wet surfaces to freeze over, leading firefighters and fire trucks to be covered with a thin layer of ice.
"This is as text-book as it gets." said Asst Chief Billy Schoenleber (8-3). "Aggressive interior attack, one properly used hose line, a proper roof cut and no injuries. It doesn't get any safer than that."
The fire was deemed under control within 2-hours, and volunteers, both cold and tired returned to the Prospect St firehouse (8-100) to thaw out and clean equipment used in the blaze.
All units returned to normal service shortly before 6:30am