Jay Street fire survivors struggling to start anew

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s been over a week since the massive Schenectady fire that claimed at least four lives, and two young people living in one of the apartment buildings is still trying to stand on their own two feet.

After narrowly escaping with their lives, the young couple is still trying to start anew. Lorenzo Scionti and Samantha Anderson were just falling asleep when they heard a friend running towards them.

“And he ran back up the stairs,” Anderson said.

“And the next thing you know, I hear, ‘Fire. Fire,’ and then the lights go out,” Scionti recalled. “I heard people screaming, and by the way they was screaming, I could tell they was serious.”

Both said no fire alarms rang as they scrambled to get out.

“He grabbed a book bag and a sweatshirt for me and told me to get out of the building,” Anderson said.

Scionti then went to help out others.

“I never head people like that before,” Anderson said.

At the same time, their friend, Kainen Gwinn, was passing by 104 Jay St. He stopped to check on his friends.

“His apartment – there’s flames shooting right through it,” he said.

Gwinn broke down.

“I’m thinking that my best friend’s dead,” he said. “Immediately I started getting teary eyed. I started shaking.”

But Scionti and Anderson made it out safe and watched their building burn.

“You could see people on the third and fourth floor literally screaming for their lives,” Scionti said.

“You could hear people screaming. You could hear their lives,” Anderson said. “You could hear them leaving, you know what I mean? It was so sad.”

The three cried tears of joy when they later met at city hall.

“And these doors just push open, and the feeling of relief made me melt,” Gwinn said.

NEWS10 is continuing to follow the investigation of the Jay Street fire.

NEWS10 requested access to a code inspection conducted the day before the fire through the Freedom of Information Law, and was denied due to the current investigation. The city’s legal office said “Your FOIL request has been denied at this time due to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke on Monday about subpoenas being sent out by the district attorney.

“ATF is still completing their investigation, and the DA’s office has issued some subpoenas,” he said. “So I refer you back to the DA on that.”

Police have been protecting the scene ever since the fire occurred on March 6. The DA’s office is collecting inspection reports for the two buildings, and the police department said if any violations occurred, there could be criminal charges; therefore, investigators haven’t excluded any possibilities.

“The investigation is ongoing into the entire event; the entire incident,” Schenectady Sgt. Matthew Dearing said.

But while the investigation continues, so does Scionti’s and Anderson’s struggle.

“We live paycheck to paycheck,” Scionti said. “We are young. We are trying to establish ourselves. We don’t have a lot of money.”

The couple said they’re applying for food stamps, the Red Cross’s relief has stopped, and their landlord hasn’t returned their security deposit.

A 50/50 raffle for Scionti and Anderson is being held from March 7-April 7 at Home Style Pizza at 1720 Union St. in Schenectady. They can also be contacted by phone at (518) 372-7270.

Funds are also being collected by Dan Ertel, CPA PC at 148 Clinton St. in Schenectady. They can also be contacted by phone at (518) 346-4011 or online, here.

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