Update: Thursday, 9:45 a.m.
Goldens Bridge firefighters were forced to respond to their own house Monday morning, battling flames that severely damaged the firehouse.
Firefighters from at least eight departments responded to the blaze, which started around 9:20 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, and tore through the building for more than an hour. The Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps took one Goldens Bridge firefighter to Northern Westchester Hospital due to smoke inhalation, but no one was injured in the fire.
“It was incredibly scary,” said Eloise Goldman, who lives behind the firehouse on Bradys Farm Road and called 911 after seeing the flames.
Route 138 was closed for the day as volunteers had to fetch more water at hydrants on Fairmount Road and at the corner of Todd Road and Increase Miller Road to douse the fire, which started on the first floor and rapidly spread to the second floor, leaving a gaping hole in the roof.
The flames were brought under control by firefighters from Goldens Bridge, South Salem, Vista, Croton Falls, Bedford Hills, Katonah, Somers, and Brewster. The Westchester County Cause and Origin Team and the state police determined Monday afternoon that the fire “was accidental in nature. At this time, the fire is believed to have originated from a faulty electrical connection to a fire truck while parked inside of the firehouse.”
Goldens Bridge fire commissioner Ed Brancati and firefighter Mike Melillo were the only people inside the building when the blaze started.
Mr. Brancati said he was upstairs when he smelled smoke around a heating vent, and that the two men then checked the boiler room, which was clear.
“When I turned back and looked down the length of the building, two-thirds of the way down there was a wall of smoke,” he said.
Mr. Brancati said that Mr. Melillo threw on his gear and rushed to get the department’s vehicles out of the firehouse, but that a rescue truck and two Chevy Suburbans were damaged. One Suburban was destroyed, he said, while the other Suburban and the rescue truck were towed away to have the damage assessed. Mr. Melillo was able to get four trucks safely out of the house.
Mr. Brancati said he was not sure if the cause of the fire was something that could have been prevented.
“I have no idea because I don’t know the nature of it yet,” he said. “I’m sure at some point we’ll have a little more clarity as to what happened.”
Ms. Goldman said she was leaving her house when her sister-in-law, Robin Kern of Katonah, pulled into the driveway and asked if she saw the smoke coming out of the firehouse.
“About five minutes prior I heard the alarm at the firehouse,” Ms. Goldman said. “Obviously I didn’t think it had to do with the firehouse, per se. She [Ms. Kern] said to me, ‘Turn around, do you see the smoke coming out of the firehouse?’ And there was this terrible black smoke. I quickly called 911, and I said ‘you’re not going to believe this but the Goldens Bridge firehouse is on fire.’”
“We watched the whole building, we saw the fire start on the first floor, and then the whole building was engulfed on that whole side,” Ms. Kern said. “Smoke was just pouring out of the building. It’s just so bizarre that the firehouse would catch on fire.”
“This fire was a testimony to how fast a fire can grow,” said Goldens Bridge Fire Department Chief Albert Melillo. “They were alerted to the fire by a hard-wired alarm system that sounded. As well the rest of the membership was notified through a central alarm company, which notified our county-operated dispatch center. Edward Brancati, a district member, ran around the building, found the fire and alerted Mike Melillo that the engine room was on fire. Ed continued to search the building for any personnel as Mike ran into the engine room and was able to get four trucks out to safety before being overcome with smoke.
“I would like to thank all for their support during our time of need. If not for the efforts of some brave firefighters there could have much more damage or perhaps worse.”
Town Supervisor Peter Parsons said that officials were moving quickly to make temporary accommodations for the department and the residents that it serves.
Fire departments in South Salem, Katonah, Croton Falls, and Somers will help cover Goldens Bridge, he said, in addition to Goldens Bridge, which will have a temporary structure at its site on Route 138.
“The immediate concern is to ensure coverage right now,” Mr. Parsons said, emphasizing that community safety is the town’s top priority. “I am very impressed with the way the Goldens Bridge department planned the immediate coverage, is right into the short-term things that need doing, and I think that’s pretty damn good.”
Offices for the Goldens Bridge Fire Department will likely move into space at the Goldens Bridge Community House on Old Bedford Road. Lewisboro’s Parks and Recreation Department currently occupies that building, but is scheduled to move to Onatru Farm Park in Lewisboro hamlet. Mr. Parsons said it could be a year or so before Goldens Bridge returns to a permanent firehouse.