By JOHN PURCELL
Recorder News Staff
Kaycee Lander, the 24-year-old woman who died from injuries in Monday’s fire on Academy Street, is being described as a hero for ensuring her family got to safety.
“The victim from all accounts just did a phenomenal job of rescuing her own family,” Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick said Tuesday. “This woman is definitely a hero.”
Lander, who is believed to have been pregnant, reportedly died from injuries sustained during the Monday afternoon blaze at 79 Academy St., officials said. Authorities believe smoke inhalation was the key factor in her death. An autopsy is scheduled today to be performed on Lander.
Culick said a relative reportedly alerted Jose Vega, a neighbor, there was a fire at the two-story home. Vega then went to the eastern side of the home where Lander’s son reportedly jumped from the second story to into Vega’s arms. Lander’s dog was also handed down to Vega.
Culick said Vega had reportedly attempted to enter the home, but the fire was too intense.
“The efforts of these neighbors put together before the arrival of the fire department was astounding,” Culick said.
Culick said Lander did not exit the house but instead she reportedly headed back into the interior of the building. Why she took this action is unclear, but Culick said she may have believed someone was still inside the home.
This is the second tragedy to recently strike the Lander family. Kaycee’s brother, Christopher, 26, who had reportedly lived at the same Academy Street home, died in October 2015 after a head-on collision in the town of Johnstown.
Amsterdam Fire Chief Michael Whitty said Tuesday the cause of the fire was still under investigation but it reportedly started in the dining room area on the first floor.
The Amsterdam Fire Department responded to the scene around 3:40 p.m. Monday and reportedly observed “a heavy body of fire” on the east side of the first floor of the building, along with “a heavy smoke condition” from both sides of the second floor and attic.
City firefighters initially deployed a hose on the east side of the building through the kitchen door and into the dining room. A second hose line was later deployed through the front door of the home.
While fire hoses were being deployed, firefighters reportedly set up a ladder on the west side of the building where an occupant was reported to still be inside. City firefighters entered the second floor through the window and reportedly located Lander using a thermal camera.
Lander was extracted from the building and placed into a waiting GAVAC ambulance, which reportedly transported her to St. Mary’s Hospital.
Fire officials said the blaze was determined to be under control at approximately 4:21 p.m. Monday and all fire companies were back in service at 6 p.m. that day.