UPDATE: 3 p.m. Monday, May 7, 2012 - Clarkstown police say they have determined Sunday morning's fire in Congers was an accident. However, the Clarkstown Fire Inspector's Office continues its probe of the blaze.
Tragedy was averted twice early Sunday morning at a house in Congers, where a fire spread from the basement, trapping a teenager, and then undermined a section of floor which collapsed under the feet to two volunteer firefighters.
A Clarkstown police officer and a 17-year-old resident of 54 N. Conger Ave. were taken to Nyack Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, but no one was seriously injured in the fast-moving fire that heavily damaged the three-story, two-family house, according to police and fire officials.
In an update late this morning, Clarkstown police said the town officer was treated and later released from the hospital.
More than 75 volunteer firefighters spent two hours fighting the fire and several firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries at the fire scene, according to Congers Fire Chief Michael Shields.
The fire was discovered around 1:30 a.m. at the home at the corner of North Conger Avenue and Howard Street, about three blocks north of Lake Road. Shields said that residents of one apartment in the house were able to get out safely, but that the teenager in the other apartment could not get out on his own.
Clarkstown police said when a town officer arrived at the house he went inside and was able to get the 17-year-old out through the rear of the home.
“When I got here I could hear someone yelling for help from inside the house,” said Shields.
Shields said it appears the fire started in the basement and quickly spread upstairs in the home. The fire got into exterior walls of the home and firefighters had to cut open the walls to expose hidden flames. Using two tower ladders – one from Congers and the other from Haverstraw – firefighters also cut into the roof of the house to fight the blaze.
While inside the house, a Congers firefighter and a Valley Cottage firefighter found themselves briefly trapped when a section of floor on the first floor of the house collapsed. Shields said the firefighters were caught in the structure of the floor and were quickly pulled out by other volunteer firefighters.
Shields said neither firefighter was seriously injured in the collapse. Valley Cottage Fire Chief Howard Gerber said the Valley Cottage firefighter involved in the collapse was soon back helping with the firefighting effort after he was checked out by emergency medical personnel.
By about 3:30 a.m., the fire was extinguished, leaving a gaping hole in the south side of the house and extensive damage throughout the structure. Clarkstown fire inspectors were at the fire conducting an investigation.
Shields said the Congers Fire Department was assisted by volunteers from New City, Haverstraw, West Haverstraw and Valley Cottage, with volunteers from West Nyack on standby in case of other emergencies. Members of Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Rockland Paramedics were at the scene to assist injured firefighters.