Community rallies around Niskayuna fire victims

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Kristin Schultz

Daily Gazette

NISKAYUNA — Investigators have concluded that an electrical issue was to blame for a house fire last week on Grandview Avenue.

In the aftermath, a friend of the homeowner set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the family meet immediate needs. The goal was to raise $10,000, but in 24 hours, more than $12,000 had been raised. As of Sunday afternoon, more than $18,000 had been raised.

The home belongs to retired Schenectady school teacher and high school lacrosse coach Steve Maloney and Schenectady ARC recruiter Beth Ognibene.

The Tuesday blaze began in — and was confined to — an upstairs bedroom, according to fire officials. However, the whole house suffered heat, smoke and/or water damage.

Niskayuna Fire District One and Schenectady Fire Station 4 responded to fight the fire. According to fire officials, the flames were under control about 15 minutes after the 911 call came in.

Barb Abigail Fiedler has been friends with Ognibene for more than 40 years. Fiedler is from Niskayuna but now lives in North Carolina. She set up the GoFundMe page to help her friends replace immediate-need items like clothes and shoes for work, as well as personal items.

“They’re the kind of people that would never ask anyone for help,” Fiedler said.

She went on to talk about the family’s community involvement in Niskayuna and Schenectady County, and the couple’s two sons, both of whom were active in the community and local sports.

Fiedler reported the family is staying with local friends, as they begin the rebuilding process. In the interim, Fiedler hopes Ognibene and Maloney feel the same kind of love and support they themselves have given for so long.

“They both have chosen careers that help others,” Fiedler said. “Sometimes, you need the help of the community to get you on your feet.”