Staten Island Advance
Monday, June 9, 1997
The vacant Port Richmond building, once home to the makers of Sedutto, erupts into a three-alarm blaze.
By Rich Cirillo
The vacant building that was the home to Staten Island’s most famous ice cream manufacturer for more than 70 years fell victim to searing heat and flames yesterday afternoon.
A suspicious fire damaged a large portion of the former Schrafft’s Ice Cream Co., sending thick smoke into the surrounding Port Richmond neighborhood.
The Schrafft’s company had manufactured world-famous Sedutto Ice Cream for several years until closing down two years ago.
According to fire officials, the three-alarm blaze was started inside an office area on the second floor of the plant, which is at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Park Avenue, at about 1:15 pm.
The first units on the scene found a large amount of smoke billowing out of second-story windows, said fire officials. They immediately called for back-up, and the fire was designated a two-alarm blaze.
Fire officials called in three separate tower ladder companies to surround the building so firefighters could climb onto the roof area to battle the blaze.
Other firefighters made their way into the building’s interior by cutting through three large metal doors on the Park Avenue side of the building.
Fire Battalion 22 Chief John Calderone said the flames spread up through the second story and reached the building’s ceiling area, burning through insulation and the roof itself.
The fire was later upgraded to a three-alarm because fire officials wanted additional manpower on hand to replace the quickly fatiguing firefighters.
Police and firefighters closed off a section of Richmond Terrace around the plant so emergency units could set up a staging area to oversee the firefighters’ response.
Though the bulk of the fire was placed under control within about an hour, insulation in the structure’s walls and roof area continued to burn, forcing firefighters to continue their assault on the flames and embers that slowly moved through the walls and roof area.
“We’re going to have a lot of overhauling to do in there,” said Calderone.
The fire was finally placed under control by 3:45 pm, said fire officials.
Emergency Medical Services officials on the scene said at least nine firefighters were treated for minor injuries, including burns, smoke inhalation and injured limbs.
While most of the firefighters were treated on the scene, a handful were taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, West Brighton, and were later released.
Calderone said fire officials yesterday did not pinpoint the exact cause of the blaze, and noted that fire marshals would be taking up an investigation.
“We can’t say as of yet what caused it, but it’s definitely suspicious,” he said.
Schrafft’s, a Staten Island institution that manufactured renowned Sedutto Ice Cream, closed abruptly in 1995 leaving approximately 100 workers out of their jobs.
The $12 million-a-year company filed for bankruptcy, and a Long Island based company, Calip Dairy, took over the rights to Sedutto.
The 44,000-square-foot building--which has remained vacant since Schrafft’s went out of business--has been up for sale.
Sedutto Ice Cream became synonymous with the Island when the family settled its manufacturing plant in the 1930s. Schrafft’s acquired Sedutto’s from the Pillsbury Co. in 1987. Pillsbury had purchased the Island-based ice cream company from the Sedutto family in 1984.