January 22, 2014

Mountain Lake Academy building deemed total loss


---- — LAKE PLACID — Fire investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of a blaze that destroyed an academic building at Mountain Lake Academy on Monday.

The students were in the dorm area when the afternoon fire broke out after an electrical issue, CEO Carol Prevost said. 

“There were the some education staff in the building, but there was no school (that day).”

Lake Placid Fire Chief Josh Favro said no one was injured.

“On our end, it went pretty well,” he said.

The Essex County Cause and Origin Team was at the academy Tuesday continuing its investigation, Favro said.

“It’s absolutely not suspicious,” Prevost said of the fire’s cause. “Everyone involved and all the fire inspectors have always said that.”

She emphasized that because last week two students were charged with arson after setting off a smoke bomb in one of the school buildings.

Monday’s fire had no connection with that or any other such incident, she made clear.


The 37 students at the academy, located at 386 River Road, will be going on field trips for the remainder of the week, and classes will resume on Monday, Prevost said.

While the building that burned contained three classrooms, there are four in other buildings, as well as conference and training rooms, that can be used as classrooms, she said.

Prevost said the school may bring in some trailers that can be used as temporary learning space.

The financial loss attached to the building has not yet been determined, she said, but the school has insurance.

Mountain Lake is a residential school for boys, ages 12 through 21, who have been referred to programs there by departments of social service, probation departments and special-education agencies.


A 911 call from a school employee summoned firefighters to the academy at about 1:30 p.m., Favro said, and heavy smoke was issuing from the one-and-a-half-story wood-frame building upon their arrival.

“We had it knocked down with our first engine and had water issues, due to no hydrants out there.”

So the Essex County Tanker Task Force was called in; between 75 and 100 firefighters were at the fire, Favro said.

They were able to save one computer and some other miscellaneous items, he said.


Crews initially tried to extinguish the flames from the interior of the upper story, the chief said.

“Once we got to our point, we didn’t feel it was safe to still be in there. We pulled everybody out once the floor started to sag.”

The roof had also begun to collapse, Favro said.


It was 14 degrees when the Lake Placid Fire Department arrived the chief said, but by the time they left, it was minus 4.

“It (the cold) was wearing our manpower down faster than it usually would,” Favro said. “We were cycling them in and out due to the cold weather.”

Departments responded from Wilmington, Keene, Upper Jay, Paul Smiths, Keene Valley, Bloomingdale, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. And the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department had a fire engine standing by Lake Placid’s station, and Tupper Lake’s department had one on standby for Saranac Lake.

The Lake Placid crews were back in service at 10:52 p.m.

“I tremendously appreciate the tireless work of the responding firemen,” Prevost said.

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