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Wayne Post
  • Historic downtown Palmyra buildings heavily damaged in massive fire

  • One woman trapped on third floor of one of the burning buildings was rescued by firefighters.

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  • Firefighters were able to safely rescue a woman from a massive blaze that spread through four buildings on Main Street in downtown Palmyra Friday afternoon.
    However, whether they were able to save the 19th century buildings, built during the Erie Canal’s heyday, is another matter, as the connected structures suffered heavy damage from a fire that was fed by a stiff southern breeze Friday afternoon.
    The blaze, which was reported around 3 p.m. was brought under control by 7 p.m., but when firefighters arrived, the flames were visible from the third story, where a woman was trapped. Firefighters were able to get inside the building and help the woman get out safely, Palmyra Fire Department spokesperson Cpt. Bobby Devlin said. She was transported to an area hospital and her condition is currently unknown.
    “The fire had a good head start on us,” Devlin said. “There were no fire walls, so it spread quickly through the four buildings.”
    Devlin said fire walls are required in new construction, but these buildings, each of which housed ground-floor businesses and two stories of apartments, were built long before the fire regulations were in effect.
    In fact, said former mayor Vicky Daly, who was on the scene Friday evening, because of the age of the buildings, the state has different building code rules.
    Sixteen fire departments, from as far west as Fairport, as far south as Farmington, as far east as Lyons and as far north as Williamson, with upwards of 125 firefighters, were on scene battling the blaze. Three firefighters were taken to local hospitals for dehydration and heat exhaustion, Devlin said.
    Although all four buildings are still standing, they have been deemed as uninhabitable at this time until a thorough inspection can be done, Devlin said.
    The Red Cross responded to help the nine people displaced. The agency is providing food, clothing, emergency housing and other basic needs as necessary.
    Firefighters from multiple departments remained on scene Friday night putting out hot spots.
    “We would like to thank all the fire departments that came in mutual aid to help out,” Devlin said.
    An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire as well.
    Merchants in the buildings included Mark’s Pizzeria and Goldy’s Goodies, as well as an interfaith church and a collectible shop.
    Mark Crane, owner of Mark’s Pizzeria, owns one of the buildings, said Daly.
    Hundreds of people crowded downtown Palmyra as multiple fire departments responded to the fire.
    Among those watching the evening activities were former local merchants Anson Johnson, owner of the former Palmyra Pharmacy and Dave Banks, who ran a print shop before joining the real estate field.
    Johnson wondered how much insurance the building owners have for what is expected to be major repairs on the heavily damaged buildings.
    Page 2 of 2 - Daly noted that Palmyra boasted one of the most intact 19th century business districts anywhere in the country.
    “And then today, that was the end of it,” she said, noting that the craftsmanship that went into the buildings, including the intricate trim at the top, call frieze, which is almost impossible to replicate.
    The fire appeared to have started on the third floor, according to Joanne Lee, owner of Goldy's Goodies.
    Lee said the windows blew out above her when she was inside her store.
    "I was in there and I heard a big crash," she said.
    Lee said she's not sure when she'll be able to reopen. She does not have insurance.
    "My whole life is in there," she said during the afternoon as the blaze raged.
     
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