During the City of Cortland Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Cortland Mayor Scott Steve announced the recognition of three SUNY Cortland students for their role in assisting two families who were affected by a fire on Clayton Ave. in mid November.
The three students, Holly Wright, Jessie Ciufo and Seylah Ferguson, were recognized by Steve as well as Cortland Professional Firefighters Association Union VP, Travis Marshall, and the City of Cortland Fire Department Deputy Chief, Derek Reynolds.
“We had two families that were outside that have been displaced… and it was pretty intense. There was a lot of crying and screaming, especially when one of the families found out one of the dogs had passed.” Steve said, describing the scene the night of the fire.
He continued on to talk about one of the children being upset about the passing of their dog and how that child was taken inside by the three students for ice cream and helped them calm down. The three students also provided blankets and coats for the families affected. Steve noted that with the students assisting the family, it eased the situation for firefighters who were still inside ensuring everyone was out of the building and the fire had not spread.
“As I’m watching this [fire] unfold, my main focus is to make sure that everyone is out and then protect the staff that’s working that day. So I’m trying to keep track of heads going on in the building.” Deputy Fire Chief Reynolds said. “Then there is screaming behind me and I look back and look at the families and try to address their needs. But to turn around and see the college students there come out of their house. We always talk about this town on relationships and to see [the students] come out and really show us what Cortland State has to offer for the community was amazing.”
The two families affected by the fire, 12 people in total, have seen a large amount of support from the community. Steve noted “truckloads” of donations were given by members of the community as well as Grace Christian Fellowship paying the security deposit and first month’s rent for the families. Donations for both families also came from Grace Holy Spirit, Cortland Fire Department, Smith Elementary, The Red Cross, Cortland Police, and many more.
“She never felt so much love before.” Steve said, quoting one of the victims of the structure fire.
Steve also noted that Wright, Ciufo, and Ferguson, will also be receiving gift cards from area restaurants for pizza for their upcoming finals as a thank you, and also gift cards from Byrne Dairy for more ice cream.
The students’ work though for the families did not stop that night, the morning after the fire they offered donuts and a case of water for the family members who were on scene salvaging what belongings they had left.