City firefighters who were called to Monday’s massive fire on Newell Street returned to work on Friday morning.
It was their first shift back since battling the blaze in which of two of their own were injured when a portion of a brick wall fell on them.
And Friday was the first time they got together to talk about the stubborn blaze that destroyed the sprawling vacant storage building at 108 Newell St.
The firefighters exchanged their takes on the fire and how they fought it, Chief Dale C. Herman said.
“It was an opportunity to tell their story,” he said, “about what they did and what they saw.”
They also studied documents that contained a narrative of the fire, so they could learn from the experience.
In all, about 25 city firefighters were joined by a crew of five from Fort Drum to fight the blaze that took most of the night to get under control. Two teens face arson and other charges in the fire.
Firefighter T.G. Kolb remains listed in fair condition in Upstate Medical University after suffering from a fractured hip and other injuries when the wall collapsed. The other firefighter, who has not been identified, was treated at Samaritan Medical Center and released that night.
Because the situation involved two injured firefighters, the state Public Employee Safety and Health bureau was called in to investigate what happened.
Cullen Burnell, acting communications director for the state Department of Labor, said Friday he couldn’t comment on the investigation, as it’s “ongoing.”
On Thursday, a PESH investigator reviewed the scene, Chief Herman said. The investigator looked at the dispatch log, took photos of the scene, gathered information and spoke to the chief about what happened.
The PESH investigator also looked at the brick wall that collapsed and noticed a delineation between the markings of the still-standing part of the building and what fell. The fact that the collapsed part of the building was an addition may have played a role in it collapsing, but no one noticed it while fighting the fire, Chief Herman said.
“No one knew it was going to happen,” he said.
The investigator plans to return in three weeks to speak with the two injured firefighters and gather more information, but Chief Herman expects that PESH won’t proceed with a formal investigation. Instead, he has been told that PESH will most likely complete “an incident report.”
The building consisted of single-story and two-story sections in the front and two lower levels at the back, where the two men entered. The front entrances were secured and could not be accessed, Chief Herman said.
Investigators determined the fast-moving blaze started in a 20-foot-by-20-foot area in a lower level at the back of the building. The fire traveled quickly in the larger section of the building and into an elevator shaft because “it was open,” he said.
How the two suspects allegedly started the fire, and a motive, are not clear. Police have declined to comment.
But, in police documents, Detective Joseph A. Giaquinto wrote that the police investigation concluded the two teens “did light a fire(s) inside the building.”
Scott J. Munson, 18, of 121 St. Mary St., and John H. Long, 18, of 14235 Route 12E, Brownville, were charged on Tuesday night with fourth-degree arson, first-degree assault and first-degree reckless endangerment as a result of the injuries suffered by the two firefighters.
The two lawyers representing the two teens have waived preliminary hearings; the cases are headed to a grand jury for action. Both teens remain in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building jail without bail.