FIRE IN THE MANOR: A volunteer firefighter’s account of the pavilion fire

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The fire at the height of its intensity

By Peter Gasperini

Late on December 12th, a fire raged at the beloved pavilion at Law Memorial Park in town. The fire blazed for hours, and the damage on the pavilion was significant. Luckily, no one was hurt, and the fire did not reach the pool or the library. The cause of the fire is still unknown. One of our staff members, volunteer fireman Peter Gasperini, was there the night of the fire. This is his account.

It was 8:30 on Saturday night. It was a particularly boring day, since all of my friends were either busy or out of town, and I found myself sitting at home watching TV. What seemed to be a very uneventful day ended up turning into one of the most exhilarating, crazy and unforgettable nights of my life.

Around 8:45 my pager went off, calling for a Briarcliff full department response. I ran out of my house and started driving towards the firehouse in town. Most full department calls are false alarms or very insignificant fires, so as I drove to the firehouse I thought it would be a routine job. No big deal, right? Then my pager went off again, stating a 10-75 (Structure Fire). At that point I knew it was serious, but I still wasn’t expecting what I was about to see. I arrived at the fire house, put on all my gear and got on Tower Ladder 40. We pulled out with sirens screaming.

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The aftermath of the pavilion fire

On the short ride, I heard other firefighters saying the whole pavilion was engulfed in flames. When we arrived, the structure was burning with such intensity that I couldn’t actually see it under all the flames. We parked at the circle next to the library, and Engine 93 parked behind us. Engine 92 from the Scarborough Fire Station parked right behind the pavilion and hooked up to a hydrant. We began to flake out and stretch hand lines (portable hose) and started attacking the fire. While we attacked from the ground, Engine 92 utilized its deck gun. The fire continued to rage and large chunks of the building fell off. We began to work our way around towards the front of the pavilion into the pool complex where I put on my mask and went on air. There was a heavy smoke condition, and I couldn’t see more than five feet in front of me. At this point, other companies from Ossining, Millwood, and Hawthorne arrived and started attacking the fire from the front. Another engine parked alongside the pool, and a ladder truck rolled in and extended its aerial ladder from the Atria parking lot. Now firefighters were attacking the fire from all angles: from the ground through hand lines and from the air through the use of engine deck guns and aerial master streams. A majority of the fire was knocked down fairly quickly. We shut down all the hoses on scene while another ladder truck from Ossining pulled in behind the pavilion. The truck extended its aerial and began putting out the smaller parts of fire contained in the voids of the structure.

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While we started overhaul and cleanup, I began to soak in everything that had happened. The immense amount of water that we used created rivers around the pavilion and large mud pits. The ground was so loose that one of the ladder trucks had to be towed out because its rear wheels got stuck in the thick mud. The smoke and soot collected all over the ground surrounding the pavilion and in the pool. The pavilion was completely charred, and there were large holes burned through the sides. The scene had also become eerily quiet. When we arrived, the scene was loud and chaotic, filled with sirens, screaming, and the roaring fire. As we prepared to leave, there was almost dead silence.

Before we left, foam was sprayed on to the pavilion to make sure the fire didn’t rekindle. We then shut the hydrants down, packed the hose back on the fire apparatuses, and left. When I got back home it was 3:45 in the morning. I washed the mud and soot off and went to bed, finishing off the most intense and exhilarating day of my life.

 

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