UPDATE: More than a dozen displaced and rescued from Utica house fire
UTICA — Upwards of 15 people fled a house fire — including three who had to be rescued off the front of the home — on Mandeville Street in Utica Sunday evening, according to the Utica Fire Department.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire officials said several people were hurt, and residency and ownership issues will make it difficult to determine who was at the home.
Utica Fire Chief Scott Ingersoll said the alarm was raised at 6:11 p.m. for the fire on the upper half of 422 Mandeville St., located in downtown Utica.
Mandeville Street is a short street that runs between Cornelia and Hart streets, near Genesee and Court streets.
Responding firefighters found thick, black smoke pouring from the upper windows of the home. Officials said three people had climbed out onto the hip roofs over the second-floor bay windows. Firefighters raised ladders up to the three so that they could climb down, as smoke billowed around them.
Upwards of 15 people were fleeing the three-story residence when fire crews arrived on the scene, Chief Ingersoll said.
Several firefighters entered the home to search, while other crews carried hose lines inside to battle the blaze, officials said. Firefighters overcame initial water and hydrant issues, the chief said.
The flames eventually spread into the small attic area above the third floor, causing part of the roof to collapse. Firefighters fled the residence without injury.
The remainder of the firefight was from the outside, officials said. Crews battled the blaze and doused the last hot spots late into Sunday night and very early Monday morning. Ingersoll said it took about five hours before the fire was declared under control, with crews not wrapping up operations until about 2:30 a.m. Monday.
Cause under investigation
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said. They are also looking to pinpoint where the fire started inside the home.
"We're collaborating to try to determine cause. It's still an active investigation," Ingersoll said Monday morning. The Utica Fire Marshals and the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control are involved in the investigation.
"We're sifting through the rubble to make sure nothing is unknown. Due to the amount of damage, it's going to be difficult."
According to city tax records, the property is owned by Matthew Brooks of Sunlit Terrace, Utica, with an assessed property value of $56,700. However, Chief Ingersoll said the owner is incarcerated, and officials are not yet sure who owns the property and who lives there.
There are six apartments in 422 Mandeville St., and Ingersoll the property has been "an issue" for the city for about six months. There were legal tenants in the building at one point, but the lack of clear ownership has made it difficult to determine if that is still the case, the chief said. Utilities cannot be shut off in the winter in New York State, the chief noted, adding an extra level of complexity because utility bills were not being paid.
The city boarded over the property several times, the chief said, but "somebody has broken back into the building" over and over.
Chief Ingersoll said there may have been up to 18 people staying in the building at any given time.
"There's no indication that there is anyone missing," the chief said on Monday. "We just want to be as thorough as possible."
Ingersoll said several civilians suffered injuries during the fire, with one person going to a local hospital for a small laceration.
The chief said the building is a total loss.
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