Local News

October 30, 2013

Power chair cleared in fatal DeChantal Apartments fire


The investigation, state officials told the Saranac Lake Fire Department, will take three to four weeks to complete.


The fire was reported about 8 a.m., and within minutes, firefighters from Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department were at the building with a truck ladder raised to the fifth-floor window, he said.

“The fire was contained to just one part of one unit,” Feinberg told the Press-Republican on Monday. “It appeared to be personal property in the unit was what burned. We are waiting to hear the full investigation of everything that happened and what caused it.”

Keough said Mrs. Schoonmaker had lived locally since about 1983 with two grandchildren in the area.

Since the fire was an active investigation, he could say little about how it started.

“The fire was between her and her egress out of the apartment,” Keough said.


A charred, motorized scooter type of wheelchair, heavily damaged by fire, was removed from the apartment, Feinberg said.

“It’s like a battery-powered wheelchair that can be recharged. It seemed like that was the main item that burned in the unit.

“She used that scooter to get everywhere around town. People would see her all over the place in that thing, riding down the sidewalks,” he said.

“Neighboring tenants in the building spoke highly of her. It was impressive how mobile she was for her age,” he continued. 

”People saw her routinely at stores all over the place on her scooter.”

Schoonmaker had lived in the senior housing for more than two decades, he said.


Feinberg said a resident who tried to help Mrs. Schoolmaker escape the fire was taken to Adirondack Medical Center, where she was admitted for treatment.

Family had visited her Sunday evening, and the elderly patient, a woman, was expected to be able to return to her apartment on Monday.

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