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North Salem Couple Flees To Nearby Roof During Apartment Fire

Tom and Angela Mullane, of Croton Falls, narrowly escaped a fire in their apartment building Tuesday morning. Photo Credit: Paul Devlin
The fire at the North Salem apartment caused the Mullanes to flee to an adjacent roof. Photo Credit: Paul Devlin

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- A North Salem couple narrowly escaped tragedy early Tuesday when their second-floor apartment became engulfed in flames, forcing them to seek refuge on an adjacent roof.

Tom and Angela Mullane of 4 West Cross St. in Croton Falls were sleeping when they said the smoke detector in their two-bedroom apartment went off shortly after 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"It was scary," said Tom Mullane. "I felt the door in our bedroom. It wasn't hot. I opened it and black smoke started billowing in. My wife grabbed the dog out of the bedroom next to us and we made a run for the bathroom window. There was so much smoke. Luckily, we got out onto the roof next to us."

The Croton Falls Fire station, which is located approximately 300 feet from where the fire occurred, received a call at 3:42 a.m about an apartment with smoke and flames coming out of a second-floor window, according to Jason Blauvelt, first assistant chief of the Croton Falls Fire Department. "We got there quickly and made an aggressive attack and knocked down the fire in about 30 minutes," Blauvelt said. "We prevented exposure and extension to the next building and third-floor above. This building is almost 100 years old. If the fire got to the attic, it would've just taken off and it would've been tragic." Firefighters rescued the Mullane's from the roof of the building adjacent to their apartment. "We had called 9-1-1, so they knew we were there," said Mr. Mullane, a Chappaqua native and  teacher at Brewster High School "They got here fast. We were safe where we were and only waited about five minutes for them to arrive." The building has three apartment units on the second-floor. Besides the Mullane's apartment, one of them was unoccupied at the time of the fire, while Rich Schenkewitz lives in the other one.

"I woke up to pounding," said Schenkewitz. "The fire department was beating on the door with an axe. They did a great job. They put the fire out and saved the rest of the building. I'm still in my place and the restaurant down below is OK."

Croton Creek Steakhouse & Wine Bar sits directly beneath the ravaged apartment of the Mullane's but did not suffer any damage.

"Not one bit, which is amazing," said Mary Maitland, manager of Croton Creek Steakhouse & Wine. "We're very fortunate. We're waiting for the board of health to come which is procedure. As soon as they OK us, we should be open tonight."

Blauvelt said between 80-100 firefighters battled the blaze, with mutual aid coming in from Somers, Brewster, South Salem, Bedford Hills, Goldens Bridge, Mahopac and North Salem's ambulance corps. He said the fire in Mullane's apartment began in the living room and the damage is pretty extensive.

"The old plaster ceiling and walls helped us contain the fire to the living room, but with the high-heat, smoke, and water damage, everything in that apartment is pretty much destroyed," he said.

The Mullane's have lived in the apartment for nearly two years and said they invested a lot of time and money into it.

"You think of the work you put in and some of the stuff you lost..." said Angela Mullane, her voice trailing off. She is set to begin graduate school on Wednesday.

The Mullanes said they are insured for their personal belongings and admitted the results of the fire could've been much worse.

"There is not a part of the apartment that wasn't damaged," Tom Mullane said. "We're sorry to see so much stuff go, but you have to keep in mind that it's just stuff. We are thankful and fortunate that we got out of there safely."

Blauvelt said the investigation is closed with the cause of the fire ruled accidental.

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