January 5, 2014

Pipe thawing started AuSable Forks fire

By CHRIS FASOLINO Press-Republican

---- — AUSABLE FORKS — A devastating blaze Friday on Golf Course Road “hit close to home” for the Fire Department, according to AuSable Forks Fire Chief Michael Cross.

The homeowners, Howard and Amy Drake, were both former members of the department, and they have two sons who currently serve, one as an assistant chief.

The homeowners were evacuated and are now staying with one of their sons. No one was injured. However, the home was destroyed.

The alarm sounded at 5:51 p.m., and the AuSable Forks Fire Department was back in service at 2:38 a.m. Firefighters from Keeseville, Jay, Upper Jay, Peru, and South Plattsburgh also responded, with Wilmington on standby.

Cross said the fire was caused by an attempt to thaw frozen pipes.

“Our offensive operation turned into a defensive operation; and that turned into a surround and drown,” Cross said of the effort. Firefighters needed to use a great deal of water during their long campaign. “We depleted the town system and went to a tanker shuttle. The water we were pouring out was quite an issue.”

Firefighters also dealt with frigid temperatures, battling through a night when temperatures in the North Country were colder than those in parts of Alaska.

“The cold weather really did a pounding on the guys. It’s very hard to fight a fire normally. Take in 20 below on top of that, and it made it that much more difficult.”

As a result, Cross is deeply grateful for the efforts of his firefighters and of the other departments.

“I want to give the guys a shout-out for showing up in the frigid temperatures. I couldn’t be more thankful. The outpouring of support from both counties was incredible.”