Skip to content

Albany Fire Department uses condemned building for drills

March 30, 2011

by TG Branfalt Jr.

Front of 930 Madison Ave (TG Branfalt Jr)

The Albany Fire Department began using 930 Madison Ave as the site for search and rescue drills on Tuesday. The drills will run twice a day through Friday. The department will be using both hose, ladder and medical response companies in the drills.

The building, along with neighboring 926 and 932, will be demolished in the coming months to make way for the new Saint Rose dormitory.

The fire department learned of the buildings’ fate and contacted Saint Rose Project Manager Jonathan Otterbeck about using the property to conduct the drills.

“Albany Fire Department thought it was a good opportunity,” said Otterbeck. “It’s better training, actual live training in a real world situation that you can’t just learn in a classroom. It’s also an opportunity for Saint Rose to give back to the city.”

The department will use a fog machine to simulate smoke screen conditions, use mannequins as victims to train

AFD Firefighters reconvene following the afternoon drill (TG Branfalt Jr)

firefighters in search and rescue and will train with thermal imaging cameras. They will practice cutting a hole, using a chainsaw, in a peaked roof for ventilation. Peaked roofs are uncommon in Albany.

“We get a lot of fires on flat roofs,” said Captain Alex Kapczynski who is in charge of the drills, “you need different equipment for peaked roofs.”

This is a rare training session for the Albany Fire Department. Most buildings in Albany scheduled to be demolished are long condemned.

“You need a structurally sound building, and not a lot of structurally sound buildings are torn down… If we’re lucky we get to do this once a year,” said Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Toomey.

Albany Fire Department trains with ladder truck (TG Branfalt Jr)

Each company and drill varies in manpower. The Tuesday morning drill was lightly manned. Each truckcarried four or five men in full gear. The men in each truck had a specific job. The medical response team with two men from the ladder truck ran inside the building to search for victims. One man from the hose truck hooked up to the hydrant while another controlled the truck and another ran hose from the truck to the building. The ladder truck worked similarly. One man operated the ladder controls, while two men climbed the ladder to the roof, one carrying a ladder the other a chainsaw. Once the ladder was in position and stabilized the man with the chainsaw climbed the ladder, chainsaw running, and cut a hole in a labeled spot on the roof. Plywood will be used to cover it.

The afternoon drill featured more trucks with twice as many firefighters but functioned similarly. The drills were conducted full speed as an emergency situation.  The teams radioed their superiors, Kapczynski and  Toomey, of their findings inside the building.

“The building is one of the oldest in Pine Hills, probably built around 1860-1870,” said Cara Macri, the director of preservation services for the Historic Albany Foundation. The Foundation has an agreement with Saint Rose to salvage items of historical value, including doors, wood trim and door escutcheons. “Saint Rose is probably the best for contacting us when they start a project,” Macri said

The valuable copper piping throughout the properties will become the property of the contractor who wins the bid for the job. There are eight contractor bids.

The 930 Madison Ave. site is also the former law office of Alice Berke.

Alice Berke in front of her old law office (TG Branfalt Jr)

A sign left behind by Berke (TG Branfalt Jr)

“I think it’s great,” Berke said when informed that fire drills were being held in the building, “I could have left my furniture behind and made it more realistic.” She was given permission by the college to take whatever she wanted, so long as removing the items would not lead to code violations. She moved out of the building in December. Signs Berke had put up inside in the building still remained.

There is more to be completed before the buildings come down, asbestos abatement is scheduled to take place between April 18 and April 30.  Asbestos was found in pipe insulation and chimney sealant according to a notice fixed to the doors of all three buildings. Proof of asbestos abatement must be completed before the buildings can be demolished. There will be a site plan meeting on Thursday.

“If the site plan is approved, construction is scheduled to begin in late May,” said Saint Rose Project Manager Otterbeck.

The building is one of the oldest in Pine Hills and once a Madison Avenue landmark is serving its final purpose.


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: