‘Right place at the right time:’ DPW worker hailed as hero for early morning spotting fire in Peekskill

Fire officials say flames have damaged some business on the corner of Park and Bank streets.

News 12 Staff

Jun 14, 2023, 10:24 AM

Updated 304 days ago

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Peekskill firefighters are thanking a long-time member of the city's public-works department for noticing and reporting a fire during the early morning hours when the city was still asleep.
  
Officials say quick thinking by James McGrath could have saved the whole block from burning.
  
McGrath tells News 12 that he had just started his shift around 4 a.m. and was sweeping the streets near Bank and Park street when he noticed a smoking light-fixture outside the Burger Diner on the corner.
"I could see smoke coming out of the awning," says McGrath.
He called 911 and the fire department arrived within minutes.
Crews found a fire inside, and got it under control.
There were no injuries and further damage was prevented.
"I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I called it in. I guess I did what anybody else would have done at that time," says McGrath.
The Burger Diner, a Guatemalan restaurant and a convenience store were affected.
Peekskill Fire Chief Jim Seymour says it appears the fire originated from an outlet in burger-diner's kitchen and then spread through this top loft space that connects it to the other businesses.
the chief also says, McGrath's quick-thinking saved these businesses.
"If it wasn't for him and there was any additional delay, the fire could have run that entire cock-loft ceiling area. He's really the difference in why the building is standing behind us."
So, what's McGrath's response to learning he helped prevent hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and saved several peoples' livelihoods?
"That's great. I wish I would have been there earlier."
The Burger Diner seems to have had the most damage. The two other businesses, have minor damage and could reopen within days. They first need clearance from the health department to get back to business.


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