A wintry night turned into what Scarsdale Fire Chief Jim Seymour called “an old-school boxing match” between firefighters and Mother Nature.
At about 12:56 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, the Scarsdale Fire Department received a 911 call from 72 Mamaroneck Road. Upon arrival, firefighters found residents outside the blazing structure. One person was helped out of the house from the third floor by a firefighter.
“Firefighters kept getting punched in the face by Mother Nature, but they kept getting up and fighting back,” Seymour said. “The conditions were deplorable.”
When Seymour looked at the thermometer on his truck, he said, it read 3 degrees, which meant it would’ve been below zero with the wind chill.
“It was so cold, we needed to continue to cycle crews in and out,” Seymour said. “After about an hour, or half an hour, of working outside, the firefighters were covered in ice. So, we’d rehab them and warm them up and then send them back out.”
A mutual aid response brought departments from Hartsdale, Greenville, Fairview, White Plains, New Rochelle, Eastchester, Yonkers, Pelham, Pelham Manor, Larchmont and Buchanan. About 80 fire and EMS personnel, including more than 20 Scarsdale volunteer firefighters, battled the fire in the extreme weather conditions.
It took about six hours to knock down the main body of fire, but other pockets of fire weren’t extinguished until about 4 p.m. The house was destroyed, but no injuries were reported among the residents or responders.
With Scarsdale firefighters dispatched to the burning house, the mutual aid responders were on call at the public safety building to cover any other calls.
Seymour said neighbors didn’t have to evacuate because there was enough space between the properties, but one neighbor left anyway.
“In my experience, I never went to a [fire at a] private dwelling of that size and magnitude coupled with the severe cold,” Seymour said. “Typically, when you hear 8,000 square feet, you’re responding to an apartment building or a commercial building. It was one of the more complex operations I’ve been a part of.”
Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps President David Raizen said he and seven other members of SVAC were dispatched to the fire.
“Everybody was covered in ice,” Raizen said. “It was so cold.”
Members of SVAC kept the residents warm in the back of an ambulance while they waited for a relative to pick some of them up.
According to a village press release five people were taken to White Plains Hospital, including three firefighters who suffered smoke and cold-related injuries. One remained hospitalized for observation.
Ambulance corps from both the town and village of Mamaroneck were called in for mutual aid.
Seymour said the house, which was last sold for $2.7 million in July 2018 according to Zillow, will have to be evaluated by the village’s building department and the homeowner’s insurance company to determine whether it needs to be torn down.
An investigation determined the fire was accidental and had ignited when embers probably dropped from the first floor fireplace into the basement.
Because the fireplace was boxed in, the fire spread quickly throughout the house.
Seymour urged homeowners who use their fireplaces to get the structures cleaned and inspected at least once a year.