Four Dead in New York House Fire

Four adults are dead inside a Rochester house fire
Emergency personnel gather Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 at a house where four people were found dead late Sunday after a fire in Rochester, NY. Officials say firefighters found the bodies of four people, two men and two women, while battling the blaze. The fire has been deemed suspicious, but officials haven't released any details of what may have caused the fire or what killed the four victims. (Tina Macintyre-Yee/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)
Published Monday, January 11, 2016

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities say four adults have been found dead inside a Rochester, New York, home after a late-night fire that is being considered suspicious.

Fire officials say they were called to the three-story, two-family home on Sunday just before midnight. Officials say firefighters found the bodies of two men and two women while battling the blaze.

The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reports ( that several homicide investigators and Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley were at the scene Monday.

The fire has been deemed suspicious. Officials haven't released any details on what may have caused the blaze or on what killed the four victims. They haven't been identified.

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Jon Stewart, NYC Mayor Honor Cancer-Stricken FDNY Firefighter

Retired firefighter fighting stage-four cancer is given key to the city
Comedian Jon Stewart, center right, applauds retired FDNY firefighter and Sept. 11 first responder Ray Pfeifer after Pfeifer was given a key to the city at New York's City Hall on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016. Stewart joined New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to honor the cancer-stricken Sept. 11 first responder who helped win a fight for health care. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Published Monday, January 11, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — Jon Stewart says he was only a "wingman" to a cancer-stricken Sept. 11 firefighter who helped stage a last-ditch congressional fight to secure future health care for first responders.

An impassioned former "Daily Show" host joined New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at City Hall to honor retired firefighter Ray Pfeifer with a key to the city.

"The key to the city is a symbol of trust, and I think that if you gave it to me, you'd go to sleep, I'd steal the Chrysler Building," joked the newly bearded comedian, standing in blue jeans before uniformed firefighters, their families, elected officials — and even a dog whose father had been a 9/11 search dog.

"I love this man," Stewart said, embracing Pfeifer, who spent months digging through the World Trade Center debris searching for fellow firefighters' remains.

"I was Ray's wingman on our trips down to DC," said Stewart, adding that various responder activists' "ability to withstand having to fight for a thing that they never should have been down there to fight for in the first place ... raised my spirits and my hope for the future in a way that nothing else could."

The 57-year-old Long Island resident with stage-four cancer rose from his wheelchair to say that the legislation passed by Congress last month extends health care to tens of thousands of first responders "still dying from terrorism ... still sick from terrorism."

"I was a very small part," Pfeifer added. "I was just a poster boy." But "we got something done. ... It was hard-fought. We dealt with people that didn't really get it."

He and Stewart were part of a group that walked miles through the halls of power challenging lawmakers to vote for the federal act that extends health monitoring and treatment for Sept. 11 first responders across the nation until 2090.

Stewart used the "Daily Show" to highlight the issue, and when he retired as host made sure politicians who balked at supporting the bill were named in the media.

"My job there was to have a camera and embarrass people," he told Saturday's gathering.

De Blasio responded: "John, thank you for all you did in this fight."

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Popular FDNY Dalmatian Dies

“Twenty” helped build the morale of Ladder 20 after the Sept. 11 attacks
"Twenty", Mascot of Ladder Company 20 (Fire Department City of New York photo)
Published Friday, January 8, 2016

NEW YORK - A dalmatian that became the prized mascot of a lower Manhattan FDNY firehouse ­after the 9/11 attacks died on Tuesday.

The dog named Twenty was donated 15 years ago as a puppy to Nolita's Ladder 20, which lost seven members in the 2001 World Trade Center ­attacks.

"Her name was Twenty, and she became our mascot and companion," Ladder 20 FDNY Lt. Gary Iorio wrote on Facebook.

"She really helped to build the morale in the years following 9/11. I can't say enough about what she did to help us."



“Seven members from Ladder 20 died on the 35th floor of the North Tower on 9/11. In the days that followed, condolences...

Posted by New York City Fire Department (FDNY) on Tuesday, January 5, 2016


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New York Fire Department Elects First Female Fire Chief

Pekin mother of two is the new chief of the Pekin Fire Company
TERESA SHARP, The Buffalo News Published Monday, January 4, 2016

PEKIN - Tammy Snelgrove just made history.

The 44-year-old mother of two took office Friday as the first elected female fire chief for a volunteer fire company in Niagara County.

The move to the top in the Pekin Fire Company has been several years in the making, as Snelgrove moved up the eligibility ladder. Still, she says the honor is "overwhelming."

She takes the reins from Kevin Beutel, who has served as chief for 12 years and will become her first assistant.

"She's the only one in the company qualified to take over," he said.

Snelgrove, a 10-year veteran, was the top responder for Pekin, answering 185 calls from last December through this past month. The Pekin company covers portions of the towns of Cambria and Lewiston, including the Tuscarora Nation.

"Her numbers speak for themselves," said Beutel. "I think she missed 15 calls all year. I was third (in answering calls) and I was chief and she was miles ahead of me. And, she's a good leader, there's no doubt."

Snelgrove also works full time as an administrative assistant at Orleans-Niagara BOCES, right around the corner from the fire hall, and has two sons, Joshua, 20, and Jaret, 17.

She recently took some time to talk about her volunteerism, interrupted toward the end of the conversation by an emergency call, of course.

What first drew you to volunteer firefighting?

My father, Jim Reinard, was a volunteer firefighter with various companies, so I grew up in it. In fact, he was assistant chief at Pekin at one time and retired from the Pekin company.

When did you join the Pekin company?

I was married and had my kids and when they got older, I had time to do what I wanted to do, so I joined Pekin in 2005. I trained for interior firefighting, then trained to become an EMT (emergency medical technician). I've been an EMT for six years.

How did you move up through the ranks?

You have to be in the company for at least one year and off of probation before you can run for office. We have our elections every November. I knew I wanted to be on the fire side (of the company), because that's my thing.

I was fourth assistant for a year, then third assistant for a year, then second assistant and first assistant for a couple of years each. I just moved up the ladder gradually.

Our chief said to me, "It's time for me to step down and for you to move up." Kevin has been a huge mentor to me. Someone nominated me and a few others for chief in November, and I won.

How does it feel to be the first elected female volunteer fire chief in Niagara County history?

It hasn't really sunk in yet ... We had our installation Dec. 5. My dad and mom were there and my dad was pretty proud. All through the steps, fourth assistant, third assistant, etc., I would always call my boys first, then call my dad and tell him.

How many active members do you have in Pekin and how many are women?

We have 27 active members and six are women - but it depends on their schedules how active they are. One, for example, is a cardiac nurse, so she comes when she can. She's an EMT, too. I have another one who is very, very active.

I was the only girl for about five or six years. Some had joined before me, but they never stayed active.

Do you think having a female chief will encourage more women to consider this form of volunteer work?

I hope so. Some think this is something females can't handle. But you have to work from the ground up, like I did. And, the more calls you go on, and the more things you see, and the more things that you are put in charge of - you realize you can do this. You can handle the stress. You learn to flow with it.

How many calls does your company handle a year?

We have 200 to 250 calls a year and a majority are EMS (emergency medical services) calls. We have 10 EMTs. The EMS calls are for things like car accidents and house calls. Our fire calls have actually been down.

How much time do you, personally, dedicate to the fire company a week?

I'm at the hall all of the time, whether it's doing paperwork or helping with something around the hall. I'm also the adviser to our Explorer Post's junior program, for ages 14 to 21. And, I'm secretary for our exempt organization, for those who still want to be involved in our company, but not on the fire side of it.

How do you balance family, career and all of the hours you devote to this?

This is 24/7, 365. It's a big thing to be dedicated to. You really have to consider the time it takes to be dedicated to it, but it's the community that pulls me in.

When I'm on a call, I think, "What if that was my family? What if that was my child?" When I'm on an EMS call, I put everything in my heart into it.

When you go to someone's house who is sick, you just try and give them a little kindness. When they say, "Thank you," it just puts a smile on your face. You were just doing what you needed to do.

But you might also save someone's house, someone's home. Community is what makes us whole and giving back to the community is what I want to do.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email

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Video: Two Dead in Brooklyn Apartment Fire

Brooklyn apartment fire extended to another building and killed two people
Published Monday, December 28, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — Officials say a fire that raged through one Brooklyn apartment building and spread to another killed two people.

It's not yet clear what sparked the blaze around 1:30 a.m. Monday in the Williamsburg area. It took about 200 firefighters and about three hours to get it under control.

Fire Department Deputy Assistant Chief Wayne Cartwright says the fire grew rapidly after starting on the first floor or basement of a three-story building on Richardson Street. One victim was found on the second floor.

Third-floor resident Theresa Vibberts told the Daily News she awoke to the sound of windows shattering. She says a neighbor banged on her door and urged her to escape, saying, "It's much worse than you think."

No further details were immediately available.

Two firefighters sustained minor injuries.

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Firefighters leave a building damaged by a fatal fire in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. Officials say a fire that raged through one Brooklyn apartment building early Monday and spread to another next door. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

USFA: New York Captain Collapses at Fire Scene

Mount Marion fire captain became unresponsive during a mutual aid fire
United States Fire Administration Published Monday, December 21, 2015

The U.S. Fire Administration has announced the official on-duty death of Captain Jack H. Rose, 19, of the Mount Marion Fire Department on December 15, 2015.

Captain Rose responded with members of his fire department to a mutual aid response call for a reported chimney fire. According to the fire department, when firefighters arrived on scene they observed fire coming from the ground floor.

An entry team of firefighters from the Mt. Marion Fire Department entered the basement to extinguish the fire. During the interior firefighting operation, Captain Rose became separated from his team. Rose was quickly located by fellow firefighters and removed from the basement.

Once outside, Captain Rose became unresponsive and firefighters initiated lifesaving measures. Captain Rose was treated by paramedics at the scene and transported by DIAZ Ambulance to the Health Alliance Hospital-Kingston Broadway Campus where efforts to revive Rose continued.

In spite of all life saving measures, Captain Rose eventually succumbed to his injuries.

Tribute is being paid to Captain Jack H. Rose at

To date, 81 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2015.  Year-to-date and annual USFA firefighter fatality reports are posted online at

Fatality status is provisional and may change as USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify fatality incident information

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Over 4,000 Firefighters Sue Siren Manufacturer over Hearing Loss

Lawsuit claims the manufacturer didn’t do enough to keep firefighters safer
In this Jan. 28, 2014, file photo, a New York City firefighter jumps on a firetruck that just exited a Manhattan firehouse on the way to an emergency call in New York. About 4,400 current and retired firefighters with hearing loss have filed suits against a company that makes sirens, saying too-loud sounds have cost them their hearing, and the manufacturer should have included equipment that could have directed the sound. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)
Published Monday, December 21, 2015

NEW YORK - There were times by the end of his shift that firefighter Joseph Nardone's head would be pounding, his eyes crossing from the noise of the siren on his truck.

"The siren was so loud inside the cab that it actually physically hurt," said the former New York City fire battalion chief. Even though he's been retired for over a decade, he said, the effects of the sirens linger in hearing loss that has left him unable to understand rapid conversation or follow along in church.

Nardone is among about 4,400 current and former firefighters nationwide who are suing Federal Signal Corp., an Oak Brook, Illinois-based company that makes sirens, claiming it didn't do enough to make them safer for those on fire trucks who have to listen to them nearly every day.

They say the company could have designed them in a way that directs the volume away from areas where firefighters sit in the engines, shielding them from sound blasts that lawyers say reach 120 decibels, roughly equivalent to a rock concert. Said the 73-year-old Nardone: "The manufacturer had the means and ability to do something about it and they didn't."

Federal Signal argues that directing the sound defeats one of the main purposes of a siren - to warn motorists and pedestrians that a truck is coming. And it says it has long supported what many departments have advised its firefighters to do: wear ear protection.

The lawsuits, which began surfacing more than a decade ago, have been in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and the Chicago area, said attorney Marc Bern, who's leading all the lawsuits. In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said juries have decided in favor of Federal Signal in most of the half-dozen or so suits that have gone to trial.

The company also has settled in some cases without admitting any wrongdoing. The largest settlement, reached in 2011, required the company to pay $3.6 million to 1,069 firefighters for cases filed in Philadelphia.

Bern said Federal Signal could have made the sirens with a shroud to warn those in its path instead of a more generalized blare.

"Clearly, you don't have to have sound going all the way to the rear of the fire engine," he said. "If you're driving behind a fire engine and you don't see a 50-foot-long, red ... engine with lights going on and off, there's really something wrong."

David Duffy, attorney for Federal Signal, said making the sirens more directed would put firefighters and the public at greater risk.

"Firefighters have testified that they want a loud siren that projects noise to the front and sides of fire trucks," he said. Accidents often involve vehicles that hit fire trucks from behind, necessitating a loud noise in all directions, he said.

Duffy also noted that firefighting organizations have for three decades advocated use of earplugs or ear coverings to reduce the risk of hearing loss from sirens or other noises in the course of their firefighting duties, "of which there are many."

The Fire Department of New York wasn't able to immediately provide information on its policies on noise or whether earplugs or coverings are provided or required.

Duffy said studies measuring the level of noise firefighters are exposed to during their work shifts, including sirens, is on average below 85 decibels.

Federal standards take into account the intensity of the sound and the duration. The higher the decibel level, the shorter the time workers can be exposed to it.

Rick Neitzel, who studies noise and other exposures at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said the standards are geared to traditional jobs like manufacturing, not firefighting, where shifts can last for longer and the exposure is intermittent but intense.

"A lot of the questions now are: Is the current recommended level appropriate for exposure that a firefighter would have? And I would say we're not entirely sure," he said.

Dr. Lawrence Lustig, a hearing loss expert at Columbia University Medical Center, said people have different levels of susceptibility. Some research involving animals seems to imply that noise exposure in early years leads to more rapid age-related hearing loss, he said.

Retired Bronx firefighter Frank Bazzicalupo was exposed early. He joined the FDNY in his 20s and stayed for 25 years. The 61-year-old spent the last decade or so of that career driving fire trucks before retiring in 2002, hearing the sirens blaring overhead.

These days, trying to hear in any environment that has background noise is an exercise in frustration.

"On a plane is the worst," he said. "I hear the engines roaring; I can't hear the person next to me."


Follow Deepti Hajela at Her work can be found at

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Bill Strengthens New York Law on Violence against EMTs

New law makes assault against on-duty EMS personnel a felony
Fire Department City of New York Published Monday, December 21, 2015

NEW YORK, NY - Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, State Senator Martin J. Golden, Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol and union representatives today announced a new law making any assault against on-duty EMS personnel a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

This year, there have been 73 instances of EMTs, Paramedics and EMS officers having been attacked while on-duty. In 2014, 78 assaults were reported.

EMTs and Paramedics should never be assaulted while performing their difficult life-saving work, said Fire Commissioner Nigro. These men and women deserve our protection and respect. I want to thank Senator Golden, Assemblyman Lentol, District Attorney Thompson, and the many other elected officials and union leaders in particular Vincent Variale and Israel Miranda who worked so hard to create this law aimed at better protecting our 3,000 EMS members.

Introduced earlier this year by Senator Golden, the Chair of the New York Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee, Bill S. 4839 was signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on November 20, 2015. This bill amends the law to provide stronger protection than ever before for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Paramedics and EMS Officers, who, while performing their assigned duties, are attacked with intent of bodily harm. This law takes effect February 18, 2016.

The EMS paramedics and technicians of our City and State are brave men and women dedicated to protecting and aiding the public, said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Those individuals who assault these public servants should be held accountable for their intentional actions to harm. New York State Senator Martin Golden and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol deserve our thanks for sponsoring this law.

Emergency medical service paramedics and technicians are required to treat patients under extremely dangerous and stressful conditions, and deliberate, violent attacks against these public servants are, sadly, not uncommon, said Senator Martin J. Golden. Therefore, EMS paramedics and technicians should be offered every protection under the law. This bill ensures that, in those cases in which there is proof that an individual intended to injure one of these professionals while on duty, that perpetrator can be prosecuted as a felon. We must do everything in our power to protect those who are there for us in times of need.

Individuals who set out each day to save lives need to know they are protected by the law, said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. I am proud of this legislation which protects New Yorks heroes who selflessly give of themselves for the sole purpose of saving someone else.

We are happy this law was changed and will provide the protection and justice for EMS members who are assaulted while protecting and saving the lives of the people in New York City, said Vincent A. Variale, President of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union.

"We are very appreciative of support from DA Thompson, Fire Commissioner Nigro, bill sponsors Lentol, Golden and the legislative leadership, said Israel Miranda, President of Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507. Without their unwavering support our members would not have achieved this new level of protection from violent attacks on the job." 

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New York Firefighter Stricken During House Fire

Spending Bill Extends 9/11 Health Benefits

Zadroga Act is funded through 2090 in a year-end spending bill from Congress
Jack McNamara, 9, second from right, holds a sign on behalf of his late father during a rally calling for the funding of the Zadroga Act, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in New York. John McNamara, who served in the New York Fire Department, worked at the World Trade Center site following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and died in 2009 of cancer. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, center, and other officials joined in the rally. The Act, which funds medical care for 9/11 first-responders, is set to expire and was not included in the Transportation Bill that passed the Senate earlier this week. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Published Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — First responders who rushed to the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks, spent weeks cleaning up the site and later became sick will have access to federal health benefits for the rest of their lives.

A year-end spending bill released early Wednesday morning and expected to pass this week would extend federal health monitoring and treatment for 9/11 first responders through 2090, making the program essentially permanent. It treats first responders and other victims who were exposed to toxic dust at the site and is estimated to cost $3.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The Zadroga Act, named after a responder who died after working at Ground Zero, first became law in 2010. The health benefits expired this past fall.

In addition to the health fund, the legislation would pay an additional $4.6 billion into a compensation fund for the victims and extend it for five years.

In a separate provision, the spending bill creates a new fund to compensate U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism, including the American hostages held in Iran from 1979 through 1981.

Some of the 9/11 first responders — many of them sick or dying — made several trips to Washington in recent weeks to lobby Congress to reinstate the benefits. Comedian Jon Stewart also lent a hand, stopping senators in hallways and pushing them to back the program.

"Never again will survivors and responders be forced to walk the halls of Congress, begging for their health care," said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat. "Never again will they lose sleep over fear that this life-saving program will run out."

Maloney and other New York lawmakers have aggressively pushed for the benefits, and were infuriated earlier this month when it wasn't paid for as part of a massive transportation bill. The lawmakers said they were told it would be part of that legislation, and Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of blocking it.

The same week, many of the first responders showed up outside McConnell's office, asking for the benefits to be added to the year-end spending bill. McConnell denied blocking the legislation, and said it would get done.

Federal officials have said the fund will face challenges by February and have to start shutting down by next summer if the money does not come. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which oversees the program, more than 70,000 people have enrolled, including more than 4,000 with cancer. Others have severe pulmonary diseases.

John Feal, a former World Trade Center demolition worker and leading advocate for sick responders, said he has been to Washington 22 times to lobby for the money. He said the responders were planning to celebrate that the deal was done but that it is a "shallow victory."

"Too many good people died never knowing if that cloud of uncertainty would ever be removed because Congress continued to play politics with human life," Feal said.

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted that the bill will give the first responders "long-overdue peace of mind."

New York Sen. Charles Schumer said that those who rushed to the towers "will know that if they get sick because of their bravery, the federal government will be there for them the way they were there for us."


Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at

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