Central Ave. apartment resident loses everything

ROCHESTER — When Robert Skinner left his second-floor apartment at 6 a.m. Thursday, he had no idea that was the last time he would see him or his beloved pets.

He was working shifts at the Chipotle Mexican Grill when his phone started ringing around 1 p.m. Thursday. It was a call from his downstairs neighbor, which was out of the ordinary. He checked his phone for a view of the surveillance video camera he had placed in his apartment window facing the street. It turned out the call was to let her know that her apartment at 2 Central Ave. was engulfed in flames.

“I saw a fire truck on the street and then the power went out,” Skinner said. “I checked my voicemail and heard, ‘Your apartment is on fire.’ I couldn’t believe it, I was like, ‘What happened? I have to go.’ I never thought something like this would happen.”

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A fire breaks out in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave.  in Rochester on Thursday, January 27, 2022.

Skinner said he was in shock when he arrived and looked up at his apartment. He ran to the front of the house and cut into an alley to get another view of the street. Fire engines lined the two adjacent streets of Central Avenue and Portland Street and crews were still on the scene to begin wrapping hoses and investigating Thursday afternoon. While being questioned by firefighters, he asked about his two cats and learned that they were both dead.

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“I’m devastated to have lost my cats,” Skinner said. “I had a guy for about 20 years and one who was born in this apartment. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s just my whole life was in there, you know? I have everything lost. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, where I’m going to go, how I’m going to be able to pay for my car and my job.”

Firefighters respond to a fire in a four-unit apartment building at 2 Central Ave.  in Rochester on Thursday, January 27, 2022.

Rochester Acting Fire Chief Perry Plummer said the blaze was contained to one-third of the building, which has four rental units. He said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

“When we got to the scene, there was fire on the second floor,” Plummer said. “The fire was contained on the second floor, crews did an excellent job of extinguishing the fire upon arrival. Due to the size of the building, we requested assistance from other departments.”

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Patty Benner lives in the building, but in addition to the smoke damage, her apartment was unaffected by the fire. She stood outside with other tenants and neighbors as they watched firefighters respond and await information.

“A neighbor knocked on my door, telling me to get out because the building was on fire,” Benner said. “I couldn’t think, I grabbed my cat and my purse and ran outside. It’s amazing.”

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