By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — AKWESASNE — Firefighters battled a fire at Big Boys Gas and Tobacco on Wednesday at the same time they fought off 85-degree heat and high humidity.
The fire started about 8:30 a.m. and appeared to be accidental, officials said.
The front section of the convenience store on Raquette Point Road, owned by Alex Garrow III, sustained heavy damage. Smoke and water damage was sustained throughout the rest of the business, which is located a few hundred yards off State Route 37 on the western side of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
Hogansburg-Akwesasne Fire Chief Derek Comins said none of the fuel tanks were in danger of exploding because they sit on the back of the property, away from where the fire occurred.
The Franklin County Cause and Origin Team had not finalized its investigation as of 11:30 a.m., “but they do think it was accidental,” the chief said.
“Nobody was there. They hadn’t opened yet,” Minnie Garrow said of her son’s business. “They don’t open until 9 o’clock.
“A worker next door saw the smoke and called it in, and the woman across the street said she heard the alarms go off.”
About 50 firefighters from six area departments turned out to fight the fire, and Comins said it took about 45 minutes to bring it under control.
Another 90 minutes were spent confirming the fire was out and working with the Cause and Origin investigators.
At one point, a saw was used to cut through the metal roof at the back of the building to ensure the fire had not spread unnoticed to underlying roofing materials.
Comins was not sure if Garrow had insurance but said employees were already beginning to clean up “so they can get the place back open.
“But I don’t know how long that will take.”
Franklin County’s Mass Casualty Incident/Rehab trailer set up a station under a cluster of pine trees on a neighbor’s lawn to check vital signs and supply water to the dozens of firefighters dressed in their heavy turnout gear.
The volunteers were constantly rotated on and off duty on the fire hoses and apparatus at the height of the fire to make sure no one suffered from the heat and humidity, Comins said.
In addition to Hogansburg-Akwesasne, firefighters came from Westville, Fort Covington, Bombay, Helena and Massena.
The Franklin County Fire Police also responded.
Mrs. Garrow said she appreciated all the help that arrived so quickly to fight the fire and thanked the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police for their work there, as well.
Email Denise A. Raymo:firstname.lastname@example.org