Six City of Newburgh residents were left without a home following an overnight two alarm fire that resulted in part of the house collapsing and nearby brush catching fire. Radio reports indicated that fire suppression efforts were delayed by a minimal water supply which also contributed to a nearly 30 minute delay in searching for victims. LISTEN TO THE AUDIO FEED BELOW.
Interior firefighters reported that their water supply was maxed out and they needed more water. “We’ll have to wait for a second engine for more water,” the incident commander stated on the radio. “The fire is doubtful,” he added. The next engine company to provide water did not arrive until 20 minutes after city firefighters were first dispatched.
At 3:58am on Sunday, May 14, 2023, the City of Newburgh Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire at 583 South Street, located in the west end of the city between Newburgh Free Academy and Pierces Road. Dispatchers received numerous phone calls reporting an active fire.
City firefighters responded with just two fire trucks, according to IAFF Local 589, the union representing the city’s firefighters. Seven firefighters were on duty, which included the incident commander and the operators of both apparatus, the Local 589 stated. This left only four firefighters to battle the inferno.
Firefighters arrived and found a two-story house fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters stretched hoses and began attacking the fire. The incident commander ordered a second alarm to be activated.
As firefighters knocked down enough of the fire to make entry into the house, the first floor partially collapsed and hampered interior firefighting operations, Local 589 noted.
Efforts to battle the fire were hindered when the fire hydrant pressure was maxed out and the pumper could not supply any more water, Local 589 explained. The next available engine company did not arrive until 20 minutes after the first call came in, the Local noted. When that crew arrived, they began to seek another water source.
A pumper from the Air National Guard Fire Department left their post protecting Stewart International Airport to respond into the City of Newburgh. An additional pumper left their post protecting West Point to respond to the City of Newburgh’s fire.
According to radio reports, firefighters completed searching the second floor of the home nearly 30 minutes into the fire. All of the occupants in the house were accounted for, Local 589 stated.
The Red Cross was notified to provide assistance for the six people who lived in the house. An ambulance from Mobile Life Support Services responded and stood by in case any of the occupants or firefighters were injured.
Early in 2022, city officials made the decision to shut down an entire engine company, which carried additional interior firefighters and had the ability to pump more water. During this morning’s fire, firefighters struggled with just one pumper to supply water for the entire operation until more help could arrive.
Off-duty City of Newburgh firefighters were called at home to report into work on overtime to fill the closed engine company. However, city leaders have frequently complained about firefighters earning too much money working overtime.
The Middle Hope Fire Department, a volunteer company in the Town of Newburgh, was called with a ladder truck to cover all other calls in the City of Newburgh. They were unable to assemble a crew. The Cornwall-on-Hudson Fire Department stood by with a ladder truck and the Good-Will Fire Department from the Town of Newburgh stood by with a pumper to respond to all other emergencies in the city.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The house was 1,056 square feet and contained three bedrooms. Before the fire, it was estimated to be worth $278,500, according to Zillow.