HORNELL, N.Y. (WETM) – “It was a perfect storm.” That’s what happened Sunday afternoon when eight homes were damaged by what’s likely the largest fire in the history of Hornell.
“The devastation was shocking,” said Mayor John Buckley, who turned around from a trip to Albany Sunday evening.
Buckley said it’s a “miracle” that there was no loss of human life in a fire that took more than four hours to contain. There were family pets who perished in the fire, and only two people received medical attention, including one firefighter who suffered from heat exhaustion.
Fire departments from Arkport, Canisteo, and Fremont provided mutual aid after the first crews thought they were responding to just one structure fire, not multiple.
Fire Chief Frank Brzozowski says that the fire was so hot that several hoses broke, shields melted, and one firetruck was affected.
A major cause of the amount of destruction was due to the older homes and how close they were built together, according to the fire chief. Preston Ave. is a one-way street, according to officials, which made the situation even tougher.
Buckley says that several of the homes damaged are rental properties, and that Code Enforcement and local landlords are looking for solutions for the 23 people displaced.
Those displaced are being assisted by organizations such as the American Red Cross and Catholic Charities.
The Hornell City School District says that 17 students in grades Pre-K through 10th grade were affected and are meeting with counselors.
Those wishing to donate to the families affected can take cash or gift cards to Maple City Savings, where an account is being set up.
A list of items needed, including clothing sizes, will be made available.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Hornell Police Department at (607) 324-2860.