By Ben Rowe
---- — SARANAC LAKE — A fire in a unit of the DeChantal Apartments senior-housing complex Sunday morning left one tenant dead and forced the evacuation of the building’s 110 residents.
According to a press release from the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, two trucks and 19 members of the department responded to an alarm at 8:05 a.m. from the residence, located at 60 Church St., Saranac Lake. Facing heavy smoke on the fifth floor, the firefighters located the tenant of the burning unit. The tenant was admitted to the Adirondack Medical Center and died later in the day. The department did not release the identity of the tenant.
According to Hannah Hanford, executive director of community relations at the Adirondack Medical Center, three of the other tenants brought to the center were treated and released while one was admitted in stable condition.
Departments from Lake Placid, Bloomingdale and Paul Smiths-Gabriels as well as the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Squad and Tupper Lake Rescue assisted at the scene and the fire was extinguished in 10 minutes.
Members of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Franklin County Fire Investigation Team, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office and the Saranac Lake Police Department were still investigating the cause of the fire at press time.
According to building Manager Wayne Feinberg, residents were evacuated to the ground floor. He said some residents chose to go to nearby churches while others went to stay with local relatives.
The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross offered counseling and support to the residents while Feinberg said a number of local restaurants had offered food.
“Everybody’s been reaching out very well to make things comfortable for the elderly tenants that we have here,” Feinberg said.
Although Feinberg and the residents were not allowed above the ground floor while the fire was being investigated, he said the apartment where the fire began is uninhabitable. However, he believed the fire was contained to the one unit and that damage to surrounding apartments was minimal. He said a guest room was available to house any residents whose apartments may have been damaged, but he expected all residents to be able to return to their apartments.
The complex is owned by the non-profit DeChantal Apartments Inc. and often caters to low-income residents, Feinberg said.