PLATTSBURGH — The Fourth of July holiday turned tragic for a Town of Plattsburgh neighborhood when a raging house fire killed three people.
“I just feel sick right now,” said Amy Hewson, a neighbor of 31 Homestead Drive, the two-story house that was engulfed in flames shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.
Chris and Kathy Swiesz lived at the burned house with their three children, operating a respite home caring for people with special needs.
Members of the Swiesz family either got out of the burning home or were not there when the fire occurred, but three respite residents did not make it.
Firefighters were called to the house about 1:15 p.m. as people in the modern subdivision of single-family homes off Wallace Hill Road were beginning to enjoy their holiday afternoon.
Susan Faus, who was on her way from her home in Morrisonville to visit Hewson and her family, noticed smoke when she pulled into the neighborhood and went to investigate.
“When I got there, it looked like just a small gas grill was on fire in the garage, and then in seconds the whole garage was in flames,” she said.
Neighbor Kerri Barber called 911 for help.
‘TAKE A CHANCE’
Faus and another neighbor of the Swieszes, Mark Latrielle, ran to help.
Latrielle grabbed a ladder and was able to get Mrs. Swiesz and another person out from upstairs.
Faus urged 15-year-old Samantha Swiesz to jump down from a ledge on the second story, but she was hesitant.
“I told her she had to take a chance and to jump into my arms,” Faus said.
“She had to get down.”
Samantha was able to shimmy down a porch post to get a little closer to Faus and then leaped.
“She landed in my arms,” Faus said.