Brewerton (WSYR-TV) – The fire at a Brewerton apartment complex that left 20 people without homes on Sunday may have started in a kitchen.
Cicero Police reported Monday that initial findings from the county fire investigator showed that the fire at Bayshore Apartments may have been started by an electric drill that was charging in the kitchen of one apartment.
Witnesses say it started just after 1:00 p.m. on the first floor and quickly spread to the roof. Firefighters were on the scene until almost 8:00 p.m. making sure the building was secure.
Cicero Police officer John Cottrell was patrolling his usual route in Brewerton when the call came in. He was the first to make it to the scene.
“There was heavy smoke coming from the building. Most of the residents had evacuated already. There was an individual in a wheelchair who had stated he believed his daughter and two grandchildren were still in the third floor apartment,” Cottrell said.
“I attempted to go into the building. I got into the door...I got a foot to two feet into the building and the heat was too intense and the smoke was too intense,” he added.
Brewerton Fire Chief Robert Zacholl said the side of the building that was on fire should be able to be lived in again after considerable repair work.
Some of those who live in the complex returned Monday for their belongings, counting their blessings and rallying around those who lost everything.
Neighbors on the side of the apartment building that wasn't as badly damaged hope to continue to help neighbors on the other side who lost everything.
Patricia North lives in one of the apartments and said no one in the building had renters insurance, so she hopes to put together a benefit for those most affected.
“This way they could maybe get somebody to help them buy clothes and new furniture because this side [of the building], I mean… they really lost everything,” North said.
The families said their apartment managers are hoping to have apartments for those affected within a few weeks.
Neighbors told NewsChannel 9 that they are lucky no one was hurt.
"As bad as it is, it's a good day because every body's alive, so we've got to be blessed for that," said resident Tammy McCann.
Some of her neighbors said they are alive thanks in no small part to McCann.
Nicole Schaller slept through the fire alarms until McCann woke her.
"I wouldn't have even gotten out if it wasn't for my neighbor running in and waking me up and checking the whole building and making sure everybody else was getting out," said Schaller.
Schaller is 7 months pregnant and still ran to help alert other people living in the building.
"The little boy Shayne from upstairs...I ran upstairs and he was in his apartment building alone. He wanted to go back in and get his cat but I wouldn't let him," said Schaller.
The investigation into the fire is continuing.