New York State Firefighters Battle House Fire In Icy Conditions

SCHENECTADY -- Firefighters stormed into a burning Congress Street home this morning amid reports that children, including some who were handicapped, were trapped inside, authorities said.

No one was found during the search at 719 Congress St., and Fire Chief Robert Farstad said authorities later determined that none of the four children or two adults who live there were at the home when the fire began.

Firefighters were called to the house shortly after 10 a.m. after neighbors reported flames billowing from the windows.

Stacie Reohr, a neighbor, said she came out of her house to discover orange flames roaring out of the back of the two-story home. She said she ran to the building and smashed windows with a bicycle tire to try to alert anyone inside that the building was aflame.

She said she was immediately repelled by thick plumes of black smoke that poured out of the busted windows.

"There was thick black smoke and I couldn't see anything,'' said Reohr, who noted that she heard no signs of life in the building and no calls for help.

Farstad said the subfreezing temperatures quickly turned the water into ice, making fighting the blaze treacherous and footing difficult on icy ground. However, no firefighters were injured. He also said no hydrant froze and getting water to the fire was not a problem.

The cause remains under investigation.

A dog was found dead inside the house, and firefighters feared that several cats may also have perished.

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