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Fire damages Watertown apartment building

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Seven people were displaced Tuesday after an early morning fire extensively damaged a four-unit apartment building in Gabriel Courts on Olmsted Drive, near Route 12.

The seven residents escaped unharmed from Building 209, 1815 Olmsted Drive, said Deputy Chief Russell J. Randall. The fire was reported by several callers at 1:49 a.m. and took about 30 minutes to get under control.

When firefighters got there, flames were coming from the roof, Mr. Randall said.

“It’s unusual for us to get there and for flames to be coming through the roof,” he said.

The two upper apartments, including a vacant unit, sustained fire damage and the building’s roof was gone, he said. Two lower apartments had smoke and water damage.

A passerby on State Street saw the flames’ glow shooting out of the roof.

The building is not habitable, Mr. Randall said. Investigators were looking for a cause.

Initially, 15 shift firefighters responded, and the Fire Department recalled others from their homes to bring the total fighting the blaze to 37, he said. The Fort Drum Fire Department helped at the scene.

A firefighter suffered a wrist injury while battling the blaze, Mr. Randall said.

Kelly E. Hecker, emergency services manager for the American Red Cross of Northern New York, said the organization offered the apartment building’s tenants food, clothing, medications, eyeglasses, assistance in the future with first month’s rent and security deposit, and referrals to other agencies.

They went to relatives’ and friends’ homes.

The Red Cross regional district office has been overwhelmed with emergency response cases this fiscal year alone. Since July 1, the agency has assisted 227 clients in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties from 77 opened cases.

“We’ve expended more money this year than in the previous two or three years,” said Jane G. Gendron, chapter executive. “It’s unbelievable.”

Since July 1, the agency has shelled out $65,813 in disaster response services, which is “triple from last year,” Mrs. Gendron said.

Times staff writer Rebecca Madden contributed to this report.

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