June 12, 2013

Port Henry fire considered suspicious


---- — PORT HENRY — The fire that destroyed a historic home here is being investigated as possible arson.

Late Monday afternoon, fire swept through the former Neil Anderson house at Broad and Stone streets in Port Henry.

Since then, the Essex County Fire Investigation Unit has had a team of investigators at the site, probing the interior of the two-and-a-half-story home.

“It is suspicious,” Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said Tuesday. “It started in the basement. There was nobody living there.”

The State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation has joined the investigation, he said.

He said owner Michael Mackin of Ludlow, Mass., was contacted by phone but had not come to Port Henry. 

Mackin also owns the old Witherbee Mansion across Stone Street from the Anderson place and at one time had been restoring both structures.

The house has been vacant since Anderson sold it to Mackin in late 2011 and moved out. Anderson had lived there for more than 30 years. Its current assessment is listed as $99,000.

“Everyone did an excellent job fighting this fire and protecting nearby homes,” Jaquish said. “They (firefighters) were tireless. It was an old, historic home, and it was a difficult fire to get at.”

Port Henry firefighters had also returned to the structure several times for rekindles that had to be doused.

Although the walls of the house remain, the roof was burned off in the fire and parts of the inside collapsed.

“I doubt if it can be salvaged,” Jaquish said. “There was significant damage.”

He said Mackin told them he has no insurance on the home, which was built in 1850.

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