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Columns

June 9, 2014

Emergency management plan paid off for Sidney in 1984

If there had ever been any doubts about the value of a having an emergency management plan in place in Sidney, all doubts were cast aside in June 1984 when a fuel depot in the village experienced a series of explosions in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 9.

“The village of Sidney emergency management plan has been in effect for less than a year, but ‘it worked a charm’ when fire at a fuel depot forced the evacuation of more than 250 village residents from their homes, according to Fire Chief Joseph Maddalone,” The Daily Star reported on Monday, June 11. Officials of the James Mirabito and Sons fuel company began exploring whether to rebuild the fuel depot, then found on Cartwright Avenue, three blocks from the downtown business district and adjacent to homes on two sides.

“Naturally we’re very concerned with the human aspects of this,” Joseph Mirabito, general manager of the company said on Sunday night. “You can always replace trucks and tanks, but you can’t replace people.”

Leona Becker, who lived with her husband at 55 Cartwright Ave., said she went to sleep around 2 a.m. but smelled a strong odor of gasoline.

“The first explosion knocked me right out of bed. We couldn’t get out the front door for the heat. It pushed us right back in,” she said.

Her husband, Sidney fire policeman Clarence Becker, remained in the area to help with the evacuation and crowd control. Residents of Willow, Knapp, Avery and Smith streets were all evacuated. Clarence Becker compared the second and largest explosion to an atomic blast, as it mushroomed out into the sky.

The ensuing fire wiped out three nearby businesses and four homes. A Mirabito truck driver was taken to what was then called The Hospital and then transferred to Albany Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns. No one was killed by the explosions or the fire.

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