February 7, 2013

Fire Breaks Out in Collegetown; Residents Flee Building

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On Thursday evening, Zach Yuzka grad was in bed with his 15-month-old daughter when he heard a noise from the bathroom of his house at 109 Delaware Ave. As he approached the room, it seemed like a light had turned on — which was strange, he said, as his wife was not in the house.

However, Yuzka encountered something a bit more troublesome than a faulty light in his home: “The bathroom was on fire,” and the fan had fallen out of the ceiling, he said.

Yuzka said he quickly exited his house, which is half of a duplex owned by Denice Cassaro, assistant director of Community Center Programs. Cassaro lives in 111 Delaware Ave.

“Denice [Cassaro] took care of [my daughter,] Hannah, and I called 911,” Yuzka said.

According to the Ithaca Fire Department, dispatchers received the call about the fire in the bathroom, and all on-duty fire personnel and a number of off-duty personnel arrived at the scene within a few minutes. The Ithaca Police Department, the Ithaca Department of Public Works and the Red Cross shortly followed.

No injuries were reported at the scene, according to Lieutenant Tommy Basher Jr., public information officer for the IFD.

“Early detection and notification allowed for minimal damages and loss of property,” said Guy Van Benschoten, assistant fire chief of the IFD, who estimated the fire caused less than $20,000 worth of damages.

The official cause of the fire is still under investigation, although it is believed to be connected to a circuit problem in the bathroom’s electrical fan, according to Van Benschoten.

According to Van Benschoten, the firefighting team quickly extinguished the fire and cut a hole in the roof to allow smoke to escape. The fire was under control after about 10 minutes.

After the main fire was extinguished, the team stayed on “fire watch” to ensure that there were no other sparks that might rekindle the flames, according to Van Benschoten.

Cassaro’s half of the duplex, which sustained no damages, was checked for carbon monoxide, but it was deemed safe enough for her to return that night. Yuzka’s family stayed with their neighbor, Prof. Bruce Lewenstein, communications.­­

“The fire department and the neighbors were immediately wonderful and helpful,” Yuzka said. “Everything was fine, and everyone was helpful.”

Cassaro said that she was “very grateful no one was hurt.”

“The firefighters were amazing, as were my neighbors. We were very lucky and Zach responded quickly. He and his family are very dear to me,” she said.

Original Author: Noah Rankin