By FELICIA KRIEG Press-Republican
---- — PORT DOUGLAS — County and state fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a large three-story home here Saturday morning.
A few minutes after noon Saturday, Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish stood surveying the still-smoking remains of the octagon-style building, located at 21 Kessal Park Road in the Hamlet of Port Douglas in the Town of Chesterfield.
The only thing still intact was a small storage building that was attached to a partially-burned wooden deck that stretched down a small hill to the main part of the home.
Essex County Fire Investigator Joe Norton was at the fire site Saturday morning and was met later by New York State Fire Investigators Bill McGovern and Rich Daws, who traveled from Albany to assist them.
After they were dispatched just before 5:30 a.m., fire departments had to navigate pumpers, tankers and an aerial truck through the one-lane road that leads to the remote location situated on Lake Champlain, Keeseville Fire Chief David Perky said.
About 40 firefighters aided in the effort to extinguish the blaze, Perky said.
No one was at home when the fire broke out, Perky said, and it was reported to authorities by a neighbor.
“By the time we got there, it had a pretty good head start on us.”
Foam was used along with water to target the flames that consumed the wooden structure, Jaquish said.
There was minor damage to the exterior of the house next to 21 Kessal but Jaquish said it could have been much worse.
“If they (the Fire Department) got here later, it would have been on fire (too).”
‘TWO PETS DIED’
At about 1 p.m., Keeseville firefighters returned to what remained to douse smoke that was still issuing from the rubble.
“The neighbors are getting smoked out,” Jaquish said.
No people were injured in the fire but two pets, a cat and a small rodent, were not able to be saved, Perky said.
The family’s two dogs were being housed at a kennel and were not in the home, Jaquish said.
The investigation was only in its preliminary stages Saturday afternoon.
“We still have to dig through all that debris down there,” McGovern said.
He had just taken pictures of the remnants.
The home was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Jaquish said.
NO RENTER’S INSURANCE
Jaquish said the home’s owner, Nadim Dergham, has homeowner’s insurance but renter Basem Hack does not have renter’s insurance.
Jaquish spoke with both men.
“He was beside himself,” Jaquish said of Hack. “I go to so many fires where they (renters) think the homeowners insurance covers their stuff.”
“Their face turns white when you tell them they’re not covered.”
Jaquish recommends all renters buy insurance, which he said is usually quite affordable.
STAYING WITH FAMILY
Hack had moved to the home with his wife and her two children from Florida in February, Jaquish said.
They had just recently sold their Florida home, he said.
Hack declined Red Cross assistance, saying he and his wife and two children would be staying with relatives in the area, Perky said.
Departments aiding Keeseville firefighters in the effort at the fire site were Peru, South Plattsburgh, Willsboro and AuSable Forks, with Willsboro also standing by with another fire truck at Keeseville’s station.
Fire departments in Jay and Upper Jay were on standby.
The Keeseville Volunteer Fire Department was back in service at about 11:30 a.m.
FIRE PREVIOUS NIGHT
The previous night, a fire broke out not far from Kessal Park Road at a rental home at 3061 Main St. in Peru.
That home was extensively damaged and no one was at home when the fire started, according to Peru Fire Chief Brian Westover.
Renting the home was Faye Dayton, who lived there with her 14-year-old daughter, Westover said.
On Friday evening, the North Country chapter of the American Red Cross provided them with food, clothing, shoes and comfort kits, according to a news release from the Red Cross.
Carl Morse owns the home, which is assessed at about $135,000, Westover said.
Westover said both Dayton and Morse have insurance on their property.
A sign for a business called the Cabinet Barn is next to the home.
Westover said he wasn’t sure if the business was in operation before the fire started, but the building in which the Cabinet Barn is housed is separate from the home and wasn’t affected by the fire.
Like the blaze in Port Douglas, the cause of the fire in Peru remains under investigation, but Jaquish said the two incidents don’t appear to be connected.
Nothing can be sure until the investigation is complete though, McGovern said.
“Until it’s done, we don’t know.”
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