Press-Republican

April 17, 2014

Oak St. apt. damaged in blaze

Fire contained to second-story unit

By BEN ROWE, and SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Firefighters contained a blaze at 57-59 Oak St. on Wednesday night mostly to a single unit, where a tenant fell asleep with a lit cigarette, officials say.

Heavy smoke was reported pouring from the structure at about 7:45 p.m., and a call was put out for Plattsburgh City Fire Department to respond.

A neighbor had reported the fire after seeing the smoke and hearing a dog barking, Fire Department Lt. Shawn Clark said.

When firefighters arrived, they found light smoke coming from a second-story window, he said. 

They did a brief search of the property to attempt to locate any tenants inside.

All were accounted for, Clark said.

The building is home to 14, building manager Michael Hebert said.

BALLOON CONSTRUCTION

Following the search, firefighters worked quickly to extinguish the flames on the second floor.

“The knockdown was pretty quick,” Clark said.

But the building had a balloon-frame structure, with space between the walls, that allowed the fire to quickly creep toward the third floor.

Though flames were visible on that level, he said, overall fire damage was minimal to the unit above the one where the blaze was centered.

And that one on the third floor, undergoing renovations, was vacant.

“In this case, we had more smoke in the rest of the building than any fire extension,” he said.

WORRIED TENANTS

Firefighters used ladders to reach the third floor and a chainsaw to cut through and begin to fight back those flames.

As a precaution, power to the building was cut early on in the effort. 

A crowd gathered to watch, including many who have apartments there.

“Hopefully, our side is all right,” Zachary Robare said as he watched the firefighters at work.

The apartment he shares with his girlfriend is toward the back of the structure, away from the fire, he explained.

Clark wouldn’t release the name of the person who lives in the damaged unit but said that tenant had admitted dozing off with a cigarette burning. 

KITTENS SAVED

Resident Amanda Worrell’s fears were in part relieved when a firefighter exited the building with her four 8-week-old kittens.

A neighbor, yet a stranger to her, offered to shelter the cats in her car nearby.

Angelique Catalanotto invited into her home any tenants from the building who needed a place to rest and figure out what they would do next.

“I’m too much of a Christian not to open my door,” she said. “My door is open to whoever needs it.”

Due to the lack of power and smoke damage, Clark said, it was unlikely that tenants would be allowed to return to the building Wednesday night. 

But he said with some cleaning and repairs, he was confident that the remaining apartments could be occupied again. 

13 APARTMENTS

According to the Clinton County Real Property Office website, the apartment building is owned by Edward A. Bechard of Mooers and Beverly J. Bechard of Champlain.

Valued at $225,000, it has 13 apartments and was built in 1937, the site says.