Meaghan M. McDermott
GREECE -When fire erupted in a building under construction at the Ada Ridge Court apartments last month, firefighters from four different departments rushed to the scene and helped prevent the blaze from spreading to a nearby apartment building full of senior citizens.
On Monday, residents of the occupied building at Ada Ridge Court paid tribute to those firefighters, as well as to complex staff who helped keep the calm that night as the fire raged just a few hundred feet away from their homes and possessions.
Jo Ritzman, 82, was one of the first Ada Ridge residents to call 911 when the fire broke out around 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23. With emergency alarms in their building sounding, Ritzman and others living in the 49-unit building left their rooms and gathered in the common area for a head count and to prepare for evacuation.
“One of the firefighters was kind enough to go back to my apartment and get my medications,” said Ritzman. “Everyone did a good job, and nobody panicked.”
Roberto Feliciano, Ada Ridge superintendent, arrived as soon as he learned of the fire and kept the residents informed and assisted firefighters by making sure pathways were salted and cleared. He stayed on scene all that night to answer questions and was honored for his work during the luncheon.
All things considered, he said, on that night “everything went well.”
Investigators later found the blaze started in a heating unit. Whipped by winds in excess of 40 mph that night, the fire engulfed the western section of the structure and threatened the occupied structure where the seniors watched and waited.
“Our greatest fear was the proximity to this building,” said Bud Phillips, chief of the Ridge Road Fire Department, during Monday’s “A Tribute to the Brave” luncheon in the sunny Ada Ridge community room. With a “wall of water,” fire crews kept the flames from jumping structures while also battling the interior blaze.
“There was no damage to this building at all,” said Stuart J. Mitchell, president of property owner PathStone Corp, formerly known as Rural Opportunities. “That’s amazing.”
A third of the new structure had to be demolished, but Mitchell said engineers are working now to see how much of what remains can be salvaged for rebuilding. He said he hopes to have the 45-unit building completed by November.
Cora Durkin, 84, said all the firemen did a “super” job.
“I could look right out my window and see the flames,” she said. “My windows got so hot you couldn’t even get near them.”
This article appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle on Feb. 10, 2009.