Mayor and good Samaritan help get residents out of smoke-filled building

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The house where Mayor Rolison helped evacuate tenants after the building filled with smoke.

POUGHKEEPSIE – On Sunday morning, Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison helped evacuate the residents of two apartments in a structure that was filling with smoke.  His efforts were aided by a good Samaritan who called 911 to report the fire alarm that could be heard from hundreds of feet away.

Rolison with the young girl he brought out of the building. Photo by Stacey Potik

Stacey Potik was walking home on Delafield Street Sunday morning with her mother.  The women had just been at a neighborhood bakery.  As they walked south on Delafield Street, the two heard a very loud smoke/fire alarm going off.  As they approached the intersection of Delafield Street and Hoffman Avenue, they determined it was coming from a duplex house on Delafield Street across from the Astor School and she saw smoke coming from a window on the second floor.

As Potik was calling 911 just before 10 a.m. to report the possible fire, she told Mid-Hudson News that she saw Mayor Rolison running into the building.

The mayor said he knocked on the door of the first-floor apartment and there was no response at first.  When he knocked again, he was greeted by a young girl.  He said he explained the situation and the girl went to get her father.  Rolison then removed them from the building and went back in to alert the second-floor tenants.

It took several attempts to get an answer from the tenants in the upstairs apartment as smoke continued to fill the structure.  When he finally got them to answer, he told them to vacate the building immediately, as the alarm was still sounding.

With the occupants out, the members of the Poughkeepsie Fire Department arrived, and, based on Rolison’s information, they went to the second floor and found a potted plant burning on top of debris in the upstairs window-sill.  The fire was quickly extinguished and fans were put in windows to ventilate the structure.

“I was on my way to a service for Reverend Bottoms at Beulah Baptist Church,” Rolison said.  “I was at the light at Hoffman and heard an ear-piercing alarm and began looking around and saw smoke at the house.”  According to Potik, she watched Rolison run into the building while she was calling 911.  “He just ran in while other neighbors were just standing around without helping or calling 911.”

Rolison has spent years in public safety.  He was a volunteer firefighter with the Arlington Fire District and spent 26 years as a police officer in the Town of Poughkeepsie.  “I didn’t hesitate,” he said.  “There was a situation that could have escalated quickly, risking the lives of the tenants, and I acted accordingly.”  The mayor noted that Potik deserves credit.  “If Ms. Potik had ignored the alarm rather than calling 911, the fire department would have been delayed, and delays put lives at risk.  The young woman deserves the credit.”

Potik expressed her disappointment with the passersby who spent time looking around rather than calling 911.  “I know that people heard the alarm and saw the smoke coming from the window and they didn’t do anything.  That really bothers me.”