Yonkers firefighters battle 3 fires at once, 1 woman dies

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Marcus Solis has the story.

Firefighters in Westchester County are raising concerns about staffing levels after a woman died in a fire.

Fire officials say it happened on a day when they were dealing with two other fires and staff was stretched too thin.

"I believe there's a high likelihood that if fire companies were not at this fire that that woman would be alive today," said John Flynn, Yonkers Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

It was a two-alarm fire at a luxury building still under construction that 13 of Yonkers' 18 fire companies were assigned to.

The city's remaining firefighters then were dispatched to a second, smaller fire, when the third one occurred and it was deadly.

One engine company managed to get to the house on William Street in four minutes.

"They heard the woman screaming. It was four firefighters on their own by themselves. The first ladder company that arrived which is tasked with search and rescue came from New Rochelle," Flynn said.

54-year old Aida Santiago was eventually pulled from her basement apartment but later died.

There was no comment from the owner of the building about what officials say was an illegal apartment.

Flynn says the scenario is exactly what he's been fearing, a department stretched dangerously thin amid a construction boom.

He says the mayor's proposed budget actually eliminates a handful of positions in the department's Fire Prevention and Inspection Office.

"We have an obligation to find the money to keep people safe," Flynn said. "The city is growing and the older buildings are aging and becoming more dangerous."

A mayoral spokesperson calls three fires in 40 minutes "rare" and says, "(Yonkers) has one of the highest number of firefighters per capita in New York State. Nonetheless, we will continue to evaluate our staffing standards and make changes should they be needed."

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