SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – As former Jay Street tenants attempt to rebound after a massive fire, investigators are working to determine how the fire started, who lived there and who might have been staying there illegally.
Officials entered the building Tuesday morning through the building’s ground level and through a bucket hanging from a crane. Cadaver dogs also aided in the investigation, looking for anyone who may still be unaccounted for.
Streets around Jay Street remained blocked off as ATF, fire officials and police detectives began their investigation.
Schenectady Fire Chief Raymond Senecal says the focus of their work has shifted, “Up until this point, we’ve been making the building safe and basically the investigation starts as of today.”
At Monday night’s city council meeting, Schenectady Councilman John Mootooveren described visiting the victims of the fire. “And it was so sad,” he described. “It just breaks my heart to see so many people affected by just one fire.”
Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken said the building remained unsecure on Monday, and it required workers to use wood to brace the structure.
“They spent most of Monday securing it and making it safe for tomorrow’s operation,” he said.
Workers used a crane and basket on Monday to hoist investigators above the apartment buildings to look for any clues that might help them understand how the fire started and how many people may still be missing.
“We have a general idea as to some of the individuals that are certainly unaccounted for,” McCracken said.
But police said just trying to determine who was inside is challenging.
“Certainly we’re trying to get a grasp as to who was inside the building at the time of the fire,” he said. “Who was living there; who had stopped living there; who may have been visiting.”
McCracken said one or more of the apartment units might have been home to squatters.
“They frequented the location,” he said. “They may not have had legitimate or lawful ties to the building.”
Therefore, police said knowing exactly who was in the buildings is next to impossible, but they said they know it was used by transients.
“There are individuals that were in and out of some of these buildings that weren’t showing up on any lease,” McCracken said.
Authorities are asking anyone with knowledge of the fire or who was in the building at the time to speak with police to help them with the investigation.