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November 24, 2016 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire, Torrey Farms, agriculture, news.

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It's been more than 12 hours since the first alarm sounded for a barn fire at  5520 N. Byron Road in Elba and volunteer firefighters are still on scene.

On Thanksgiving Day.

It was a massive fire. It consumed the entire onion packing and storage facility owned by the Torrey family. It's a facility that 15 years ago was owned by the Ognibene family, hence the name of the business location, "Big O Farms."

The facility is just a mile or so north on Transit Road from the Elba Mucklands, where the Torreys are one of the largest onion growers in the county.

Family members told firefighters that most of the recent season's crop was stored at other locations, so while about 1,000 crates of onions were lost, most of this season's harvest was not in the building.

What was in the building was all of the company's sorting and packing machines, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

"Obviously, these agriculture-design buildings have no built-in protection systems, so that’s a game changer for us," said Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator. "Then not having the adequate water supply for us initially, we were playing catch-up the entire time."

Clearly, the fire started in the southeast corner of the building. The cause, however, is unknown. Yaeger said investigators will look at electrical and equipment as the potential spark that lit the inferno. 

Elba crews were first on scene and started an exterior attack. Yaeger said that it's possible even by that time, given the wide-open spaces inside the building, the fire could have spread extensively.

It didn't take long for flames to reach the west end of the building, and a short time later, five- and six-foot high flames could be seen flitting through the roof.

Heavy equipment was brought in to knock down walls and open holes in the roof to help firefighters get water onto the fire.

But all morning, the water supply was a major obstacle to fighting the fire.

There was only one low-volume fire hydrant in the area, so as many as 20 tankers were called in from four counties to help shuttle water from fill sites (ponds, generally) and to porta-ponds set up on North Byron Road.

"Some of the primary fill sites weren’t adequate because of the drought we had this past summer so they had to establish and look for other fill sites, which unfortunately were further away," Yaeger said. "Some points were four, five, six miles away."

While nobody wants to be dragged away from friends, family, parades and football to fight a fire on Thanksgiving Day, the timing of the fire had one benefit: plenty of manpower. Many volunteers were home today instead of at work on a typical Thursday.

"I was fearful on the way here when the alarm came in, you know, people go away, go to visit family, a lot people go out of town, so I was concerned about what our manpower situation was going to be," Yaeger said. "Surprisingly, it may have worked in our favor. We had more than adequate manpower."

Every fire company in Genesee County was mobilized in some way for the fire. If the department wasn't on scene, and most of them were, they were acting as standby or fill-in for the departments who did respond.

Responding from the county included Elba, Byron, South Byron, Bergen, Oakfield, Stafford, Alabama, Alexander, Le Roy, East Pembroke, Bethany, Pembroke and Indian Falls, with Darien and Pavilion placed on standby or fill-in.

Departments from Orleans County, including Albion and Barre, responded, as well as Brockport from Monroe County and inmates from Wyoming Correctional Facility.

All volunteers, all giving up all or a portion of their Thanksgiving to fight a fire.

But Yaeger suggested we not concentrate on the sacrifice of the volunteers.

"It’s difficult, but our hearts and thoughts go out to the business owner," Yaeger said. "That’s the primary concern. We don’t ever want to see this kind of destruction. It’s a total loss. That’s our real thought. For the firefighters, to be away from their families is difficult, but that’s what we do. In times of need, the fire services have got to be there and we were. It’s unfortunate it was today."

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November 24, 2016 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, elba, news, agriculture, Torrey Farms.

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Photos from the fire that broke out about 7:30 a.m., today, at Big O Farms, a property of Torrey Farms, where onions are processed.

We'll have more coverage later. Initial coverage, here.

Give thanks for our volunteer firefighters.

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November 24, 2016 - 7:33am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, news, elba.

A barn fire is reported at 5520 N. Byron Road. Elba and Byron fire departments are responding. "It is believed to be 'The Big O', which is the onion growing company's name. Smoke is seen coming from the structure.

UPDATE 7:35 a.m.: This is a confirmed, working barn fire. Town of Batavia Fire Department is called to stand by in Elba's fire hall. Bergen, Oakfield and Stafford are also called to the scene.

UPDATE 7:39 a.m.: This has gone to a third alarm. Alabama, Alexander, Bethany and East Pembroke fire departments are also called to the scene, along with the Town of Batavia's ladder truck.

UPDATE 8:05 a.m.: South Byron Fire Police are called to shut down traffic at North Byron and Transit roads. Churchville is asked to fill in at Bergen's fire hall.

UPDATE 8:17 a.m.: Alexander, Darien, Pembroke and Indian Falls are asked to have crews stand by in their respective fire halls in case needed. Two tankers out of Brockport are requested to the fire.

UPDATE 8:48 a.m.: National Grid is on scene. Barre is responding. Attica is asked to fill in at Alexander.

UPDATE 9:12 a.m.: "We have rolling flames," says a firefighter.

UPDATE(S) 10:49 a.m. (by Howard): When I left the scene 20 minutes ago, the fire was still burning. Fire crews are likely to be on scene all day.  I'm going to start working on my pictures and head out later for follow up.

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: This story from 2013 contains some shots of onion processing in this building.

UPDATE 12:23 p.m.: Le Roy's rescue engine is requested to the scene.

UPDATE 12:32 p.m.: Pavilion being requested to fill in at Le Roy's hall. (CORRECTION: Pavilion asked to stage in their own hall to cover Stafford and Le Roy)

UPDATE 1:36 p.m.: A man just showed up with "a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners" for the firefighters.

UPDATE 1:42 p.m.: Le Roy returning.

UPDATE 2:23 p.m.: Alexander is returning.

UPDATE 2:36 p.m.: Several other departments have been released, including all of the out-of-county departments

UPDATE: More coverage here.

UPDATE 4:59 p.m.: Town of Batavia's Ladder 25 is back in service.

November 19, 2016 - 12:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Stafford, news.

A brush fire is reported at 6364 Britt Road, Stafford.

The fire is near a tractor and/or a garage.

Stafford fire is dispatched.

November 11, 2016 - 12:04am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, batavia, news.

A structure fire is reported in the second-story apartment at 226 Ellicott St. Fire could be seen from the window. City fire command reports bulk of fire is knocked down, checking for extensions. Elba's rescue unit was called to respond as was Alexander's Fast Team but both services were canceled. Town of Batavia is asked to stand by in quarters.

UPDATE 12:15 a.m.: Fire is out. Town of Batavia released from standby.

UPDATE 6:28 a.m.: Press release:

On Friday, Nov. 10, at 11:49 p.m., the City of Batavia Fire Department was called for a report of smoke and fire coming from a second-story window at 226 Ellicott St., City of Batavia. Upon arrival at 11:52 p.m., firefighters found fire coming from a second-story window of a two-story, wood frame structure. The first story houses a hair salon and the second story is a single-family apartment. Firefighters forced the second-story door and made a quick interior attack of the fire with a handline. The fire was contained to the room of origin and called under control a 12:15 a.m. There was no one home at the time of the fire. The two residents that reside there are being assisted by the Red Cross. The City of Batavia Fire Department was assisted by the Alexander Fire Department, Elba Fire Department, Town of Batavia Fire Department, Genesee County Emergency Management Office, and the City of Batavia Police Department. The fire remains under investigation by the City of Batavia Fire Department. 

November 8, 2016 - 7:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia, news.

A possible fire on a school bus is reported at the gas station at 8204 Park Road, Batavia.

The passengers, if any, are off the bus.

Town of Batavia fire responding.

November 3, 2016 - 8:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Bethany, news.

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A fire is reported in a smokestack at Baskin Livestock on Creek Road, Bethany.

Bethany fire, Town of Batavia and Stafford requested to the scene.

UPDATE 8:39 a.m.: The fire is in the cyclone.

UPDATE 8:51 a.m.: Le Roy to stand by in quarters with ladder truck. 

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: Batavia firefighters, with their hook-and-ladder truck, were able to get up to the top of the cyclone while others worked below. The fire was brought under control at 10:30 a.m.

Photos by Glenn Adams, Bethany FD.

November 1, 2016 - 6:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Oakfield, news.

A possible chimney fire is reported at 7126 Fisher Road, Elba.

No flames showing, but the residence is filling with smoke.

Elba, East Pembroke and Oakfield dispatched.

UPDATE 6:24 p.m.: Corfu to stand by in quarters.

UPDATE 6:33 p.m.: Fire police are closing Fisher and Drake.

October 31, 2016 - 2:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia, news.

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A chemical fire is reported at Summit Lubricants, 4080 Pearl Street Road, Batavia.

The caller reports he is the only employee working and he is out of the building.

Town of Batavia fire dispatched.

UPDATE 2:35 a.m.: A chief reports a working fire at the rear of the building. Another chief asks, "what is it?" "Charcoal, he's telling me," the second chief replies.

UPDATE 2:37 a.m.: All available manpower requested to the scene.

UPDATE 2:47 a.m.: The fire is in a silo on the outside of the building. The chief is unsure if it's made its way into the interior of the building. Oakfield requested to fill in at Station 1, Stafford to fill in at Station 2.

UPDATE 3:20 a.m.: A firefighter needs treated for smoke inhalation. On scene, firefighters say fire contained to silo detached from the building, but it was popping pretty good. There is quite a bit of charcoal in the silo. Firefighters will attempt to remove it to get the fire out. 

UPDATE 3:27 a.m.: Firefighters have open the top and are putting water on the fire from the top. The firefighter treated by Mercy should be fine.

UPDATE 3:49 a.m.: Employees in nearby facilities should shelter in place and turn off HVAC systems.

UPDATE 4:18 a.m.: Fire is out. Chief informs dispatchers, "It was not a chemical fire." It was just a charcoal fire. If there are complaints of odor in the area, "that's all it is," says the chief.

UPDATE 7:45 a.m.: Town of Batavia fire cleared this scene just before 6 a.m. Now they're called back for another alarm. A chief on scene reports, "nothing showing."

UPDATE 7:51 a.m.: Investigating, all units can remain in quarters at this time.

UPDATE 7:55 a.m.: Alarm is unfounded.

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October 27, 2016 - 8:49am
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, fire, news.

The smell of something electrical burning greeted an employee upon opening the Dollar General Store on East Main Street in Batavia a few minutes ago. The worker called dispatch and city firefighters just arrived and are investigating.

UPDATE 8:54 a.m.: Command reports no sign of smoke or fire; investigation is continuing.

October 26, 2016 - 7:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Street Road, fire, crime, batavia, news.

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Heather Ace was hanging out at a friend's house drinking Four Loko* the night of May 20 when her mother tried to call her and tell her that her house on Bank Street Road was on fire, according to a statement Ace gave to investigators.

When Ace didn't answer the phone, her mother sent her a text message, according to a statement by Tracy Ace, that read, "Answer your f---ing phone."

Heather answered on the next ring.

According to Heather's friend, Ashki Zajaczkowski, Heather dropped the phone and started screaming.

Zajaczkowski drove Heather to 8157 State Street Road, Batavia, where she lived with her three boys, including two fraternal twins, Micah and Michael Gard, and before Zajaczkowski would even stop the car, Heather was running from the car hysterically. 

The evening wasn't supposed to go as it did, according to the statements. Heather Ace was planning to go to the movies with Zajaczkowski and other friends, but as afternoon turned to evening, nobody really felt like heading out of town.

Ace put her two children to bed sometime between 8 and 8:30 p.m. and then headed over to a friend's house. She smoked some weed and then went to the Speedway and bought a can of Four Loko and some water before heading over to Zajaczkowski's house.

The two boys were locked in their room, with a lock on the kitchen side of the door put in place after the boys wandered out of the house over to the neighboring house, the residence of their grandparents.

When firefighters arrived that night, they also found the door leading into the apartment kitchen locked. Heather Ace said in her statement, she didn't know how the door became locked. She said she didn't lock it before leaving the house. Tracy Ace said it wasn't Heather's practice to lock the door because her husband needed access to the basement, where he stored his tools.

The cause of the fire has never been determined.

Micah and Michael died in the fire and Heather Ace has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

She appeared in Town of Batavia Court yesterday and entered a not guilty plea.

She is represented by public defender Jerry Ader, who said yesterday he had not yet had a chance to discuss the case with his client.

Photo: Previously unpublished, officers dealing with distraught people at the scene of the fire.

*Four Loko is a flavored, malted alcoholic beverage.

October 19, 2016 - 4:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, fire, news.

There is a report of a combine on fire in Pavilion, across from the high school, at 7014 Big Tree Road.

Pavilion fire dispatched.

October 14, 2016 - 6:00pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in batavia, fire, emergency responders, Announcements, news.

Press release:

Benefits volunteer emergency responders receive as a reward for their service is no longer subject to federal income tax, withholding and reporting. On Sept. 21 the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation exempting these nominal benefits. 

Language from the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), which excludes property tax benefits and up to $600 of other types of benefits for the 2017 tax year, was added to the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act. The Committee approved the benefit by a voice vote. The amendment was sought by senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the sponsors of VRIPA (S. 609/H.R. 2752).

“On behalf of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) I’d like to thank senators Schumer and Collins for their work on this important legislation, which will help local emergency response agencies recruit and retain volunteer personnel,” said NVFC Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “On average a volunteer firefighter in the United States donates services worth more than $18,000 to the community that he or she serves. It is common sense to clarify that the nominal incentives that volunteers receive as a reward for their service should not be taxed by the federal government.”

The NVFC will continue to work to identify opportunities to pass VRIPA before the end of the year and will provide updates if and when votes take place on the House or Senate floor. In the meantime, you can use the NVFC’s Legislative Action Center to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to support VRIPA.

October 10, 2016 - 9:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia, walmart, news.

A fire is reported in a lighting unit in the ceiling of Walmart on Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia.

The unit is near the deli section of the store.

Town of Batavia fire dispatched.

UPDATE 10:03 p.m.: It's an issue with a light ballast. Town of Batavia fire back in service.

October 8, 2016 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, Bethany.

There is a report of smoke in the building at the Rolling Hills Asylum, on Bethany Center Road, Bethany.

Bethany fire and Alexander fire dispatched.

The building is evacuated.

UPDATE: We've heard nothing further on this.

September 22, 2016 - 7:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia, news.

A semi-truck is reportedly on fire in the parking lot of Cargill on Wortendyke Road, Batavia.

East Pembroke fire is responding.

UPDATE 7:15 a.m.: It's an electrical issue. It keeps reigniting. They're going to have to cut cables, says a deputy on scene.

UPDATE 7:22 a.m.: Fire is out.

September 13, 2016 - 5:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Le Roy, Pavilion, news.

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Thomas Wood, 1st assistant chief for Le Roy Fire Department, a former chief and longtime volunteer with the company, can't remember a time when his department was called on to respond to back-to-back fires.

It didn't help that it was a fairly hot day and the second fire was fought from atop a metal roof.

His brother, Bill Wood, also a former chief, described the rooftop as "unbearably hot."

"That's why we called in Brockport and Avon and used the City's Fast Team as a regular fire unit," Wood said. "Most of our guys had already fought one fire. We were calling in extra units. Our guys were dropping from the heat."

The first fire was reported on Starr Road, Pavilion, at about 1:50 p.m. It involved a six-unit apartment complex and a quick response by Pavilion and Le Roy firefighters helped contain the fire to a single apartment.

The fire appears to have started in the kitchen area, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger. The cause remains under investigation.

Nobody was home at the time the fire was reported and residents in two other units were evacuated, including one who was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom and awoken by Deputy Chris Parker.

A dog may have perished in the fire, though several other pets were rescued.

The second fire, at a plastics factory on Lent Avenue, Le Roy, was reported about 3:10 p.m.

Most of Le Roy's equipment hadn't even cleared the Pavilion scene yet.

The Lent Avenue fire was sparked by a welder making repairs to the roof of the factory.

The fire burned about 40 feet down, Wood said. It produced quite a bit of smoke, but little flame.

"It's just an odd to have two, like hit that quick, and have to use so many people," Wood said.

There's no damage estimate available yet for either fire.

Bergen, Stafford and Caledonia also responded to the Lent Avenue fire.

The response to Pavilion also included Stafford, Bethany and Alexander along with the Office of Emergency Management.

Town of Batavia was asked to stand in at Stafford's fire hall.

Previously: 

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September 13, 2016 - 3:16pm
posted by Billie Owens in fire, Le Roy, news.

Smoke is coming from the roof of a structure at 15 Lent Ave., the site of Le Roy Plastics, in Le Roy. Le Roy Fire Department is called along with Bergen and the city's Fast Team. The city's first platoon is called to fire headquarters. Sparks from welding are said to be the cause of the smoke, or possible fire.

UPDATE 3:36 p.m.: A Mercy ambulance is requested to the scene in non-emergency mode.

UPDATE 3:54 p.m.: Firefighters say the metal roof is unbearably hot. The city's Fast Team has been on scene about 15 minutes and will now be deployed to relieve the volunteer firefighters for a respite.

September 13, 2016 - 1:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in fire, Pavilion, news.

A six-unit apartment complex is reportedly on fire at 10980 Starr Road, Pavilion. Unknown if any occupants are inside. Pavilion and Le Roy fire departments are responding.

UPDATE 1:58 p.m.: An additional Le Roy engine and its ambulance service are requested to the working structure fire along with equipment from Stafford and Bethany.

UPDATE 2:03 p.m.: Stafford is asked to fill in at Pavilion's fire hall.

UPDATE 2:07 p.m.: All occupants are said to be out of the structure.

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: The pets are all accounted for except a small white dog, according to a resident on scene. It is unknown if the dog escaped.

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: An official at the scene said the fire started in Apt. #6 but no one was home at the time. Two occupants in other units escaped. Sheriff's Deputy Chris Parker checked the building and found a person sleeping in an upstairs apartment and that person got out safely. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Bergen Fire Department is asked to standby in Le Roy's fire hall.

UPDATE 3:37 p.m.: Town of Batavia Fire Department is asked to stand by for Stafford.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m.: Le Roy 1st Assistant Fire Chief Tom Wood was the first chief on scene and took command. He said he saw one of the apartments fully involved and a lot of smoke. Sheriff's deputies were on scene when he arrived and helping to evacuate the building. Wood said Pavilion crews did a phenomenally fast job of knocking down the blaze, containing the fire damage to one unit. With all the smoke showing, it "could've taken the whole structure." Three other units were water damaged. Wood said no one, including firefigehters, suffered ill effects. He said five or six people were in the complex at the time the fire broke out, although no one was inside the unit where it began for as-yet-undetermined reasons.

September 5, 2016 - 7:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, fire.

A porch fire is reported at 41 Maple St. in the city. City fire is responding.

UPDATE 7:34 p.m.: Fire is out; checking for extensions.

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