Crisis Averted as Firefighters Save a City Neighborhood
Rochester resident pens a note of thanks to the police and fire departments for stopping a potential disaster and bringing neighbors together.
It wasn't a block party that pulled the residents of Rochester's West Fourth Street out of their homes and onto the street late Wednesday night. But with the way this story ends, maybe a block party is in order.
The activity started shortly after 10 p.m., following a storm of high winds and thunder and lightning in the city. Richard Dalton, who lives on the street, was watching TV when his daughter mentioned she smelled a "kind of sulfur, smoky smell" coming from outside an open window.
Dalton investigated and found a flame on the neighbor's house – right beneath the gas meter. He called 911.
Within minutes, a police officer pulled up outside his home, followed by another. A fire truck came, along with a seemingly nonstop crew of volunteer firefighters. Soon, the block was evacuated.
Eventually, the fire was extinguished with minimal damage to the home, and all was well.
"What could have been a major disaster became a late evening roller coaster ride of excitement and some neighborly interaction," he wrote.
"What were the ingredients of this happy ending and averted crisis? Good neighbors! The good neighbors I’m talking about are the firefighters who showed up en masse in our neighborhood’s moment of crisis. I was amazed how quickly they came, how many showed up, and how competent they were."
How many did show up? About 25, according to Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik.
How competent were they? This is what they train for, Cieslik said.
Cieslik explained what caused the flame: Lightning had struck a telephone pole across the street and the electrical charge traveled through the phone line to a box on the house next door to Dalton's. The charge ended up in a grounding wire connected to the box; that wire was on top of a gas line. The gas line ruptured and a flame ignited.
Firefighters were able to put out the fire and then turn off the gas line; the fire traveled up the side of the home and broke a window, but didn't grow beyond that before it was extinguished.
"Everybody did what we are trained to do in an emergency situation," Cieslik said.
But to Dalton, the firefighters went far beyond the duties of the job.
"Everyone on our street is extremely grateful to our volunteer fire department," Dalton wrote in his blog entry. "I think those feelings run throughout our small city of Rochester.
"Lightning can strike anytime, accidents do happen, fire and flames get out of control. How many other kinds of emergencies can trigger 911 calls? Relax and be assured … like really good neighbors our firefighters are there."
Cieslik read the blog post and was appreciative of the comments.
"I'm probably like most fire chiefs when I say our department is made up of a lot of really dedicated men and women," he said. "We look at these neighbors of ours as our customers. We're lucky to have the support of the town and of our City Council, who helps make sure we have the best equipment."
Dalton told Rochester Patch he was going to explore the possibility of a bigger token of appreciation for the firefighters who came to help his block that night.
"It was very serious and it had the potential to be very scary," he said.