Vineet Towers Exploding: Roof Shaking, Blinding Smoke, Trapped Residents; 40 people displaced

Syracuse, New York – About 40 people were displaced by an explosion Saturday night in a 12-story apartment building caused by a man making homemade fireworks, according to fire and police officials.

Police said the blast was so powerful that it brought down a residential wall in Vinenet Towers. The sixth floor would likely be a loss, Michael Munds, head of the Syracuse fire department, told Syracuse.com | Standard Sunday afternoon.

“I heard it, it was scary,” a resident on a lawn chair told other residents outside the building on Sunday. “My roof shook.”

About 27 people and five pets spent the night at an American Red Cross shelter Saturday night at Onondaga Community College, Monds said. As of 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 12 people were left at the shelter.

On Sunday afternoon, some apartment building residents sat outside the compound talking about the explosion.

Residents entered and exited the main floor, trying to figure out when they could return to their apartments, many of whom had been evacuated the night before by the firefighters.

Housing Authority Executive Director Bill Simmons said a team of maintenance personnel from the Syracuse Housing Authority was scanning every corner of the building for water and other damage.

“We’re making good progress,” Simmons said. He has been seen bringing residents in and out and assisting with recovery efforts.

The doors to the building were open with the sun’s rays pouring in from the warm summer day. Several fans filtered smoke from apartment 608, where the explosion occurred.

Nine firefighters arrived at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the apartment building at 947 Bond Street, and were greeted by a man in the hallway, according to Monds.

Monds said the man had burns all over his body and told firefighters there was an explosion in Apartment 608. The man told them that another victim was in the apartment.

He said firefighters forced their way to the sixth floor with fire hoses and found thick smoke and flames. That’s when the 911 dispatch center in Onondaga County started receiving calls from people who are trapped.

The residential building contains 153 housing units, Almond said. The fire department raised the call and a total of 60 firefighters arrived. He said only 9 were not at the scene, in case other things happen elsewhere in the city.

Firefighters split the building in half. Monds said one stairwell was used in firefighting efforts and the other was used to evacuate residents. He said some residents were able to stay put, but the firefighters had to communicate with some of the older residents.

Monds said firefighters evacuated between 40 and 50 residents. He said some had difficulties moving and were moved with wheels or using a ladder chair.

Monds said many residents were confused and the firefighters had to patiently explain.

He said firefighters in Apartment 608 found a man unconscious with burns to his body. He said two men were taken to Upstate University Hospital and three residents were treated and released by EMTs.

One of the men who was taken to the hospital is Scott Damon, 38, of Syracuse. Upstate University Hospital described his condition as critical. The sergeant said Diamond had burns on 50 percent of his body. Thomas Blake, a Syracuse police spokesman.

Blake said Diamond also had multiple charges, including arson and assault for starting to explode with homemade fireworks.

Monds said the smoke from the fireworks was blinding.

“The firefighters told me they couldn’t see their hands in front of their faces,” Monds said.

Monds said floors seven through 12 were not damaged, and 113 residents above the blast were allowed to stay on Saturday night.

He said the floors under the blast had been severely damaged by water from fire hoses and sprinkler systems. He said that at some point even the elevator was out of order.

He said the firefighters put out the fire in 45 minutes but remained at the scene until around 4 am to help residents and the Red Cross.

He said residents were put on centro buses that took them to a temporary shelter at the OCC. One resident waiting on the first floor said they tried to sleep on the cribs in the gym but were very upset by the explosion.

Monds said the Housing Authority is working to find temporary housing for residents still waiting at the shelter. The Red Cross hopes to close it tonight.

One of the residents waiting in the parking lot shook his head.

“This could be a tragedy,” he said. “Someone could have died. I hope this guy is okay.”

Syracuse Housing Authority Executive Director Bill Simmons oversees clean-up after an explosion at Vignette Towers, Sunday, July 10, 2022. (Rylee Kirk | [email protected])

Writer Riley Kirk covers breaking news, crime, and public safety. Do you have a tip, story idea, photo, question or comment? You can reach her at 315-396-5961, on Twitter @kirk_rylee, or [email protected].

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