2 fires keep department on move

Saturday, August 17, 2002

SPRINGFIELD Fire destroyed a home at 160 Plainfield St. in the Edgewater Apartments complex last night and prompted renewed criticism that budget cuts have left the Fire Department too thin to protect the city.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, to which firefighters were called at 6:46 p.m., Fire Department spokesman Dennis G. Leger said. He said the fire was caused by unattended cooking.

Also, around 11 a.m. yesterday, heavy smoke engulfed Murray Hill Avenue and Franklin Street from a fire in a vacant home at 50 Murray Hill Ave.

One firefighter was treated on scene by ambulance personnel for heat exhaustion. Arson investigators were trying to establish a cause for the fire, which started in a first floor room in the back right of the house.

At Plainfield Street, Luz Nieves, 35, who said she has lived in the two-story apartment at 160 Plainfield St. for five years, watched in tears as firefighters battled the blaze.

She lived there with her three daughters, Lee Sandra, Lucy Mar and Liz Marie, all of whom have the last name Santana, she said.

Leger said the Red Cross was scheduled to be at the scene to help the family.

With six engine trucks, three ladder trucks and a rescue vehicle at the scene, only two engines and two ladders were available for the rest of the city, Leger said.

Jose Claudio, who lives near Edgewater Apartments, at 101 Lowell St., has been criticizing Mayor Michael J. Albano for the budget cuts. He was at the scene consoling Nieves.

Claudio, a member of the New North Citizens Council, a neighborhood advocacy group, said he believes proper funding of the Fire Department, restoring the out-of-service trucks, would have let firefighters get to last night's fire faster.

Shortly after firefighters got on scene at Murray Hill Avenue, a decision was made to have them come out of the structure and fight it from the outside for safety reasons. Lt. Neil Hawley said that the fire was made more difficult by the old construction, which spreads fire through the walls quickly; a slate roof which holds the fire in; and asphalt shingles which burn like gasoline.

Roussa Soffan and her daughter Mona Soffan had some anxious moments when they smelled and saw the smoke coming toward their house, which is next door and very close to the house on fire.

Roussa's husband Mostaffa Soffan uses a wheelchair and the two women could not carry him out alone. They said that two men, who they didn't know, rushed in and carried Mostaffa out, while they got his wheelchair outside and wheeled him away from the heavy smoke.