Firefighters save Altamont house as garage burns

— Bryan Root

GUILDERLAND — Altamont’s volunteer firefighters were gathering for a picnic when the call came in at 12:21 p.m. Saturday from the owner of 29 Armstrong Drive that his house was on fire.

“I was the only one home,” said Donald Yurkonis, and he got out safely. He said he thought that the fire had started with his lawn tractor.

Because the firefighters were all together, they got to the burning home in six minutes, said Chief Paul Miller. That timing probably saved the house, he said.

The fire had started in the two-car garage attached to the two-story home.

“We were lucky we were getting ready for the picnic,” said Miller. “There was a propane tank in the garage that was venting as we pulled up.”

It took 30 minutes to bring the fire under control, he said. “There was minimum damage to the second floor,” Miller said, although there was significant smoke damage in the bedroom above the garage and a lot of water damage throughout the house.

A hydrant in front of the house next door was helpful, Miller said. Firefighters pulled siding off the house to make sure the fire that had been inside the wall was out, and climbed onto the roof to look for hot spots.


The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair
Over a charred garage, firefighters on a Guilderland truck survey the roof.


Most of the house is salvageable, Miller said, but the homeowner “is going to have a lot of work to do on the garage.”

Miller said eight departments were at the scene — Altamont, Knox, Guilderland, Guilderland Center, Westmere, McKownville, Fort Hunter, North Bethlehem — with three other companies covering for them.

By 1 p.m., with temperatures near 80 degrees, some exhausted firefighters removed their gear and stretched out on the lawn.

As red and yellow fire trucks lines the suburban street with well-kept homes and carefully-tended lawns, neighbors gathered. Albany County lists 29 Armstrong Circle as having a taxable value of $200,000.

“My son looked out the window and saw black smoke,” said Bill Root, who lives at 17 Armstrong Circle. “We wanted to make sure the occupants were safe,” he said.

By 2:30 p.m., the flames and smoke were gone and firefighters were hauling charred debris from the garage and hosing it down. “We’re overhauling now,” said Miller, explaining this is to keep any flames from returning.

Yurkonis stood with friends and family behind the yellow tape that had been strung across the road. He said he hadn’t yet been allowed back in to see the damage.

“The fire department has been great,” he said.


The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Heartfelt hugs: Donald Yurkonis, far right, is comforted as firefighters on Saturday afternoon make sure all of the flames that burned his garage are out.


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