MALONE — A two-story home at 15 Jane St., across from Malone Middle School, caught fire Monday afternoon, leaving tenants in at least three apartments without a place to live.
Howls of grief and crying came from within a crowd of people standing in front yards a few buildings east of the burning structure.
There were no injuries, but the building is a total loss, said Malone Fire Chief Brian Gokey.
Classes were over for the day at the Middle School, and most of the fleet of buses had already left by the time the fire was reported to Franklin County Fire Control at about 2:55 p.m.
County Fire Police directed traffic around the sites where Jane Street intersects with Webster Street to the west and Academy Street to the east.
A few dozen children, carrying hand-made anti-smoking signs and other positive messages, were walking along Main Street about the same time as the fire, but they were seemingly unaware of what was going on a few blocks away.
When Gokey’s department arrived, there was heavy fire and smoke visible from the second floor in the rear of the building, Gokey said.
The blaze was originally thought to be caused by an appliance, but the cause had yet to be determined Monday night, he said.
Firefighters started fighting the blaze from the inside of the building but once the roof started to sag and danger increased, they moved back outside where they used water from two hydrants and a tower ladder to quench the fire, Gokey said.
The interior flames were sending thick, black smoke billowing out second-story windows.
Stubborn flames on an upstairs porch would quickly reignite in the stiff afternoon breeze as soon as they were put out.
The smoke carried north and east, some wafting onto Route 11 (Main Street).
Once the fire was mostly extinguished, a backhoe was used to tear down the building before the departments put it out completely, Gokey said.
Between four and six people were in the building when the fire started, he said. There were as many as nine people living in the apartment building, Gokey said. The fire department called the Red Cross to assist the displaced tenants.
No belongings were salvageable from the structure, Gokey said.
An elderly woman identified as Gladys Lord, and her son, Clarence Lord, are among those who apparently lost their home and belongings.
She was seated in front of a nearby home and joined by several people who alternated between comforting her and making calls on cellphones, telling others what was going on.
An elderly man with an oxygen tank was steadied by two people who walked him to where Ms. Lord was sitting and found him a lawn chair to sit on.
A bystander helped Clarence Lord carry three bird cages away from the property, and he later held the leashes of two small dogs.
A neighbor said she thought three dogs lived in the apartment building, which is owned by Carmella Wanser, according to tax records from County Real Property Tax Office.
Gokey said he thinks Wanser had homeowners insurance, although he didn’t know if any of the occupants had renter’s insurance.
A few cats lived in the building but firefighters didn’t come across any, Gokey said.
”I’m assuming the cats got out,” he said.
Mutual aid was called in from Bangor, Westville, Constable and Chateaugay. Fort Covington was asked to stand by at the Malone station in case any emergency calls came in.
The Malone Volunteer Fire Department is thankful for the help they received via mutual aid, Gokey said.
”Our mutual aid system works very well. We couldn’t fight a fire this large on our own,” Gokey said.
The Malone Volunteer Fire Department was back in service by 8:30 p.m.
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