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June 24, 2013

Compost fire destroys Tupper Lake home

TUPPER LAKE — Compost started a fire that destroyed a Tupper Lake home early Saturday in a blaze that posed serious challenges for firefighters.

“When I pulled up there was a heavy amount of smoke from the windows and the front door,” Fire Driver Joe Cormier of the Tupper Lake Volunteer Fire Department said of the 5:30 a.m. call at 15 East Rounds Ave. “There were flames showing in the back of the house.”

In an attempt to save Travis LaBarge’s home, firefighters attempted a bold strategy known an “interior attack,” Cormier said.
“An interior attack is when they send the guys with air packs,” he explained. “They made it to a certain point, but then the structure flashed over — it burst into flames.” 

The firefighters were driven back. 

“We pulled the people out of the structure for their safety, and then we tried a defensive attack.”

The defensive attack began with ventilating the roof. But there, too, the firefighters faced unexpected challenges.

Cormier said that the home had multiple roofs. 

Apparently, as roofs had been replaced on the structure, they were simply laid over the top of the older roofs. So the firefighters had “roofs on top of roofs,” including metal roofs, that they had to cut through in order to carry out their plan.

Once the roof was ventilated, the defensive attack was concluded by firefighters extinguishing the blaze with water.

About three hours after they had arrived, Cormier said, the situation was under control. 

After the fire was put out, a thorough search was made for any other dangers. “We were looking for hidden fires so that it doesn’t rekindle.”

The entire process ended at about 10 a.m. with the help of staff from Piercefield Volunteer Fire Department.

Two trucks and 29 firefighters from Tupper Lake were joined by eight firefighters and one truck from Piercefield, along with that department’s air cascade system — a mobile unit that is used to fill air packs at the scene.

There were no injuries. “That’s what matters most,” Cormier said. The home is insured. LaBarge lived in the home alone.

According to Franklin County Fire Investigator John Bashaw, A compost pile near a deck was the cause of the fire. Heat is generated from the decomposition process, and compost piles can spontaneously combust. To avoid such a problem, Bashaw recommends keeping a compost pile “at a safe distance from the residence.”

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