ONEONTA – Kenneth C. Leslie, 86, of Oneonta passed away Wednesday, October 5, 2022 at Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown.
He was born August 29, 1936 in Franklin the son of the late James and Caroline (Gesell) Leslie. Growing up Ken worked on the family dairy farm. He graduated from Franklin Central School the Class of 1954. Following graduation, Ken joined the United States Navy and served on the USS Albany in the 6th Fleet. He was honorably discharged when his father passed away so he could help take care of the family farm.
Ken worked several jobs including Oneonta Ford Sales, Neil Nelson Construction and finally the D&H Railroad retiring from C.P. Railroad in 1996. In his retirement, Ken drove bus for OPT, and was a currier for Wilber Bank and later Community Bank. He was also a volunteer fireman for the Oneonta Fire Department.
ONEONTA — The City of Oneonta’s new fire chief appropriately comes from a long line of firemen.
A Schenevus native and fourth-generation firefighter, Brian Knapp started his position as the Oneonta fire chief officially Sunday, Aug. 1. “Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a firefighter,” Knapp said Monday, Aug. 2.
Knapp’s great-grandfather was a firefighter in West Laurens, and both his grandfather and his father were firefighters in Schenevus.
“It was part of the family, the fire service,” Knapp said. “It’s just always something I wanted to do.”
Knapp was a volunteer firefighter in Schenevus before starting at the Oneonta Fire Department as an on-call firefighter in 2004. He became a part-time firefighter within six months and was promoted to full time in 2006.
“Everyone typically gets into this job to help people,” Knapp said. The rescued people are “probably (in) their worst hours of the worst days in their lives and we’re there to help them with their problem.”
Your article about retiring Oneonta Fire Chief Pidgeon notes his recounting to you his memories of the D&H Train Disaster of Feb. 12, 1974. You state, “…when a D&H train derailed at Emmons and one of the tankers exploded.”
In fact, seven tankers carrying LPG or propane exploded that day – I know, because I was there, and saw the whole thing unfold from start to finish, as a nearby resident.
I have followed the story closely over the years, and have endeavored in vain to correct a major factual error that the NTSB carried into its report that states that the derailment occurred around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
That is false – the derailment occurred between 12 noon and 12:30 p.m. that day, but the Daybook which the OFD maintained contained that error because an officer wrote it in several hours after the call actually came in – which is not the time of the accident.
Lazy investigators didn’t correct the error and it now goes forward in time as an inaccurate recollection of the events of that day.
I have interviewed surviving firemen on this issue, and have tried to have the record corrected for posterity – so far, to no avail.
You should, at least, correct this error for your readers.
On a related Oneonta Fire Department issue, it has been almost four years since Christopher’s Restaurant in Oneonta mysteriously burned down, and there are still no answers as to the cause.
‘The Dark Horse fire,” Oneonta’s retiring fire chief, Pat Pidgeon, immediately responded when asked about the worst blaze he tackled in 36 years with the OFD.
Pidgeon was strapped into the jump seat of the fire engine as it arrived around 5 a.m. March, 1, 1992, at 18 Market St.
“There was an explosion,” he said. He looked over his shoulder. “A beam blew out, and landed on a line of cars. I knew it was going to be a long night.”
The site was what’s now that parking lot a couple of buildings east of the Green Earth health food market. Also on fire was the attached J.J. Maloney Building, a candy distributorship at 12-14 Market.
Pidgeon and Bobby Russo, his crew captain and brother of Fire Chief Francis “Cootie” Russo, set up a 2½-inch hose at the hydrant at today’s Cooper Fox, at the back end of Clinton Plaza.
“I remember the blue flames from all the alcohol that was burning,” he recalled.
At one point, as the fire appeared very close to a neighboring apartment house, he and Russo hammered on the doors of apartments in the building, awakening college coeds and protecting them with their shields as the girls hurried to safety.
EMMONS – A man was found dead when Oneonta firefighters responded to a call about a barn fire at 130 Riverstone Road, according to Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.
The Oneonta Fire Department was called to the scene of a fully involved barn fire at 11:20 p.m. last night. Schenevus, Milford and Pindars Corners all provided mutual aid, and they were on the scene until 4 a.m. this morning.
ONEONTA – Oneonta police officers and firefighters rushed to the spillway between the Oneonta Creek and Neahwa Park last evening to rescue a woman who had gone into the water in an alleged suicide attempt, OPD Lt. Christopher Witzenburg reports.
The woman, 34, was reported missing by family members who told police she had threatened self-harm. She allegedly told her family that she was under a bridge by some water, and Officer Kristen Lapointe spotted her behind the Post Office, headed south towards the railroad tracks.
When Lapointe attempted to make contact with her, the woman went into the creek at the Neahwa Park spillway.
ONEONTA – A fire at a home on Winney Hill Road in Oneonta started on the back porch and spread into the kitchen, but fire companies were able to put it out before it consumed the whole house, Oneonta Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon reported.
According to Pidgeon, the fire at the house on 290 Winney Hill Road, a neighbor called in the fire, which started on the back porch at 5:16 p.m. Oneonta, West Oneonta, Franklin and Franklin FAST were on the scene, with Otego and Laurens Fire and EMS squads on standby and for coverage, and fire fighters quickly knocked the fire down.
ONEONTA – Oneonta firefighters were able to resuscitate a cat rescued from the fire in the Mayrose Apartment complex on Lewis Avenue this evening.
“She was pretty much dead when we found her,” said Capt. Rob Latourette. “I gave her oxygen and she revived quickly.”
The cat, named Oreo, is owned by Matt Baker, a resident of the apartment, was also treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Baker, 26, managed to rescue his three guinea pigs, which are in the care of a neighbor.
A second cat, a cream-colored female named Cheeseburger, was not located in the apartment, and is believed to have run out the door when the fire broke out and is still missing.
ONEONTA – After 32 years with the Oneonta Fire Department, firefighter Jim Delello’s served his final tour of duty today as a critical care technician with the Oneonta Fire Department.
“You see people at their best and their worst,” he said. “It is gratifying to see the effect you have on people’s lives, and it’s good when you can see a positive outcome after a call.”
He began working with the department on Sept. 4, 1985, then came on as a full-time firefighter the following year. He was Union President for sixteen years, served on Mayor Dick Miller’s task force for the department and takes the roll of Crew Leader when the Captains are off.
Chris Kuhn, Director of the Oneonta Job Corps Academy, addresses family, friends and firefighters gathered in ‘the octagon,’ a hallway interchange on the third floor of Oneonta Job Corps named in honor of the late John D. Heller, who lost his life in December rescuing his fiancee and their nephews from the Walling Street arson. “We love him and we miss him.” said Kuhn. “It is our hope that when people walk through this space they will see his story and be inspired.” Members of the Oneonta Fire Department were present, as well as Mayor Gary Herzig, who remarked “This intersection was always full of life, it is only fitting it should be named after him.” At right, Heller’s fianceé Amber Roe speaks beneath his photo. “This is where we met. We spent a lot of time here talking and it was here fell in love.” Photos and stories of Heller’s life and sacrifice, along with his helmet signed by loved ones, are now on display in the John D. Heller Memorial. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)