April 24, 2013

Family in limbo following Rouses Point fire


---- — ROUSES POINT — Erin Flett heard sirens — that’s why she got up early Monday and saw flames through a skylight in the former Saxony hotel.

”Luckily, she screamed, and we got up and got out of there,” her stepfather, Marc Chapman, said Tuesday.

Erin, 15, grabbed her computer before she, her mother, Suzanne Flett, and Chapman evacuated, but everything else was lost.

All Chapman was able to do before he left was get dressed, he said.

The family, who lived on the third floor of the four-story structure, lost almost everything when a fire that likely started in the elevator shaft consumed the top floor, badly damaged the one beneath and caused substantial smoke and water issues in the rest of the building at the corner of Lake and Champlain streets in the Village of Rouses Point.

Chapman has no insurance on the structure, which also included a recording studio and, on the first floor, some apartments under construction. 

He, his wife and stepdaughter watched it burn from an ambulance parked in the Stewart’s Shop parking lot across the street.

Chapman had owned the property since 1966 and had lived there since 1986, he said.

”It’s very depressing now,” he said. “I just put so many years of work in the building.”


Rouses Point Volunteer Fire Department First Assistant Chief Walter Laramie said the cause was still under investigation.

Flames were devouring the top of the elevator shaft at the back of the building when firefighters arrived at about 2:45 a.m.

“(But) because of the damage to that area, it’s pretty much impossible to tell (what sparked the fire).”

Chapman said he expects the blaze started in the elevator motor at the top of the building.

“That shorted out somehow.”

The property is assessed at $200,000, according to the Clinton County Real Property Office.


Laramie said he handed the case off to the Village of Rouses Point code enforcement officer on Monday.

If Chapman wants to rebuild, he’ll have to consult the Zoning Board, he said.

“There’s all those different hoops that he has to jump through.”

The former hotel was looking good, Chapman said, as the siding on the outside of the structure was just finished last summer.

And Chapman was in the beginning stages of building the apartments; he had just received the building permits, he said.

“I had started on one. At this point in the game, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s a total change of plans.”

About $75,000 of equipment in Chapman’s recording studio was destroyed, including a 24-track hard drive, a baby grand piano and a 16-track analog recorder.

When the hotel was still in operation — before the main structure burned and had to be razed in 1984 — Chapman played in the bands The Triads and the Saxony Stage Band there for 13 years.


On Tuesday, Chapman and his family were in the process of taking their RV and moving the few belongings they had salvaged to a mobile home a neighbor offered as a temporary residence.

After staying with relatives Monday night, they drove to Plattsburgh Tuesday morning to buy bedding and other necessities.

Erin, he said, is “handling it pretty well. Right now, she’s not in school because we’re trying to get re-situated.”

The next step will be clearing the debris off his property, Chapman said.

“I don’t know if I can salvage the first, second and third floors or not.”

An engineer will need to assess the building before he can move forward, he said.


Chapman said calls have been coming in from friends eager to help.

“Many thanks to them,” he said. “It’s been a Godsend.”

Numerous fire companies gave mutual aid to Rouses Point Volunteer Fire Department fighting Monday’s fire: Champlain, Chazy, Mooers, Beekmantown, Plattsburgh District 3; Alburgh and Isle La Motte in Vt.; and Hemmingford, LaColle, St. Paul and Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle from Quebec. South Plattsburgh Volunteer Fire Department was on standby.

“The thing I wanted most to do was to thank all the fire departments and everyone who wanted to save the Saxony,” Chapman said.

He also expressed thanks to the State Department of Transportation, Rouses Point Police Department, Rouses Point Department of Public Works, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Lake Street Stewart’s Shop.

The North Country Chapter of the Red Cross provided the family with money to buy toiletries and other basic necessities. They have enough clothing now thanks to donations from locals, Chapman said.

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