By CHRIS FASOLINO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Four firefighters were injured battling a 310 Stafford Road blaze overnight Friday into Saturday during a night so cold that the water in the hoses started to freeze.
The injured firefighters — two who fell on ice and two with minor smoke inhalation — were transported to CVPH Medical Center where they were treated and later released.
The homeowner, Brenda Rabideau, and her family, including six grandchildren between the ages of 4 months and 4 years, evacuated safely. However, the Wallace Hill home is a total loss and it was not insured. Four pets — a dog and three cats — died in the fire.
“We’re staying with family and friends now,” Rabideau said. The Red Cross provided food, clothing and seasonal garments for the 10 family members.
An electric space heater, used to thaw water pipes, is believed to have caused the fire.
The fire departments of District 3, City of Plattsburgh, Beekmantown, Cumberland Head and Morrisonville battled the fire through the night, with West Chazy, Cadyville and South Plattsburgh on standby, and Dannemora, Chazy, West Chazy and Altona sending personnel and equipment.
District 3 Fire Chief Greg Burnell said that the help of the other departments was essential for the added manpower they provided, which allowed firefighters to be on rotation. The scene of the fire was close to the fire station, so firefighters would go inside, get something warm to drink, and then brave the cold again.
“With the wind chill, it was 35 degrees below zero,” Burnell said.
Beekmantown Fire Chief Daryl Menard, whose company was among those that provided mutual aid, described the conditions as “cold and nasty.”
As the night went on, the water in the hoses started to freeze, which made the firefighting effort more difficult. Later, when the blaze was extinguished, firefighters stopped their active attack and commenced “firewatch” until 6 a.m., knowing that parts of the building were still smoldering, Burnell said.
“At 6 a.m., I sent them home for a couple of hours.” At 8 a.m., firefighters returned and put out a rekindle that had begun, completely extinguishing the fire.
The fire had been reported at 6:55 p.m. the previous evening.
“It was a stubborn fire,” said Menard. “Unbelievably stubborn.”
When they returned Saturday morning, firefighters also salvaged some personal items for the family.
Burnell was grateful for the support that his department received during the long hours of the night.
“I want to say thanks to the mutual aid companies that came to assist us during the bitter cold.”