Police, Fire, Courts

October 30, 2013

Power chair cleared in fatal DeChantal Apartments fire

SARANAC LAKE — It is unlikely Rose Schoonmaker’s power chair sparked the fire that took the elderly woman’s life in her room at DeChantal Apartments on Sunday.

“Due to the many concerns of power-chair users,” officials said in a statement released Tuesday, “fire officials wanted to inform the general public that although the power chair was involved in the fire, it has been ruled out as the cause of the fire.”

Nor, they said, did it appear the 91-year-old woman’s home oxygen system was at fault.

The officials from several agencies also recognized “the heroic efforts” of three residents who tried to rescue Mrs. Schoonmaker and to quench the flames.

“These residents reacted without any concern for their own safety and put their own lives in serious jeopardy in their attempt to rescue Rose,” officials said in a joint statement from Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department, the Franklin County Office of Emergency Services, Saranac Lake Police Department and the Franklin County Coroner’s Office.

Mrs. Schoonmaker died at Adirondack Medical Center after being pulled from the blaze by firefighters.

Her apartment on the fifth floor of the 10-story DeChantal Apartments was the only one damaged in the morning fire, but many tenants were evacuated as a precaution that day.

Saranac Lake Fire Chief Brendan Keough said the fire wasn’t considered suspicious.

The preliminary findings of an investigation that continued on Tuesday confirmed that and also indicated the fatal blaze was accidental in nature.


Wayne Feinberg, manager of the senior housing complex, said state investigators from the Office of Fire Prevention and Control were at the site for five or six hours Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday, the agency continued looking into the cause of the fatal blaze, along with the Franklin County Cause and Origin Team, the Coroner’s Office and Saranac Lake Police.

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