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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 13, 2011

 Look for treasures among the rubble
After fire, the Romanos plan to rebuild their home

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The Romano family lost most of their possessions and a family pet in a house fire last week, but they focusing are “moving forward” with the help of the community, according to Michelle Romano.

The Romanos — Michelle and David, and their children, Emily and Matthew — have lived at 35 Christina Drive for over 15 years.

Last Thursday, Mr. Romano, a Guilderland police officer, and Mrs. Romano, a teacher at Farnsworth Middle School, left for work early in the morning, Mrs. Romano told The Enterprise. The house had a security alarm, and her husband received a call around 9 a.m. alerting him that the alarm was going off.

“Apparently the fire had burned so hot for so long that the contacts on the alarm melted, triggering it as if a door had been opened,” said Mrs. Romano. Her husband was the first person to arrive at the house, and, as he drove around the corner, he saw smoke and flames from the outside; he immediately called the fire department.

The damage to the home was so significant that the family has not been able to salvage much.

“We’re working with a company right now to go through the house and see what items they think they might be able to recover. We are finding some treasures among the rubble,” Mrs. Romano said. The family kept large plastic storage bins in the attic, and Mrs. Romano said they had melted together and had to be cut apart.

“Sometimes, there are little pockets of things that were cushioned and saved, like old Christmas ornaments,” she said. Other than that, almost all of the furniture, and even the kitchen appliances, are beyond repair.

“We don’t think the damage goes all the way down to the foundation, but the entire roof will have to be removed and replaced, and the interior will be gutted; it’s going to be down to a stick frame,” said Romano.

The biggest loss to the family, though, was one of their three cats. Members of the Fort Hunter Fire Department was able to pull two of family’s the cats out of the burning house, but the third could not be saved. Guilderland Animal Control was on the scene with crates for the two surviving cats, which were whisked away to The Animal Hospital.

The cats had significant smoke inhalation illness, but Mrs. Romano said they were treated quickly and were doing well. The family was also able to save several fish from one of their tanks, which Romano said was “shocking” because the water temperature had risen so high from the heat of the fire. She is keeping the fish at the Guilderland middle school temporarily.

“The hardest part was losing the cat, especially for the kids,” Mrs. Romano said. But, she said, her daughter and son were “resilient,” and she is proud of them for the way they have handled the situation. Both Emily and Matthew are middle school students.

The family has been staying at a local hotel for the past week, and will be there for another week while they work on “logistics,” said Mrs. Romano. She said they have friends who have offered them a place to stay while their home is rebuilt, a process which could take four to six months.

“We had been in that house for 15 years; we put in an addition three years ago. We finally had everything just the way we wanted it. We don’t care that everything will be brand new again, we want it back the way it was,” said Mrs. Romano. Right now, she said, they are trying to figure out what they need to buy, what they can borrow, and what they can rent.

“If I could thank everyone that has helped us individually, I would do it,” Romano concluded. “We know we’re blessed with what we still have.”

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