October 15, 2012

Friends lend helping hands after house fire


---- — SCHUYLER FALLS — Contractors have volunteered their skills to build Joe Ormsby and his family a new home.

The Schuyler Falls man had watched his family’s new house burn the morning of Aug. 2, just two days before they planned to move in.

A neighbor called Ormsby, and he rushed to the property, where firefighters were already fighting the blaze at about 6 a.m.

“The neighbors told me they heard an explosion” that they said blew out the windows of the structure, said Patty Todd, Ormsby’s long-time partner. Following the explosion, black smoke began rising from the house, the neighbor told Todd.


Ormsby had made a habit of checking on the house almost every night after dinner, Todd said.

But he didn’t go the night before the fire.

The fire investigator’s report stated the blaze was a result of spontaneous combustion, with all other sources ruled out, Todd said.

When Ormsby called Todd shortly after 6 a.m., she knew something was wrong, she said.

She dressed and drove the five minutes to the house.

“I could see the trail of smoke. I was crying to whole time,” Todd said. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”


The project was closest to Ormsby, though, she said. Devastated by the loss, he returned to work at his business, Ormsby Trucking, in Morrisonville two days after the fire to get his mind off it, Todd said.

“That was his baby. He put his whole heart into it,” she said. “It chokes him up to even talk about it.”

Ormsby had worked alongside the other contractors he hired. He was told the contractors had builder’s insurance, but the family has since found that wasn’t the case.

And Ormsby had taken an insurance policy out on the house but it expired several months ago and when he went to renew it, he was told he couldn’t.

Knowing the risk, Ormsby worked whenever he could on the house and encouraged the contractors to work as efficiently as possible, Todd said.

He estimated his family had invested $160,000 to pay for the materials and labor it took to build the house, Todd said. It wasn’t completely finished, but they had wanted to move in anyway with their 12-year-old daughter, Kelsey, once they obtained a certificate of occupancy and the house was in livable condition, she said.

Ormsby, Todd and their daughter will continue living in the house they rent in Morrisonville until they are able to build another home.

Todd had already notified their landlord that they would be leaving and had begun packing up their belongings.

Luckily, they hadn’t started the moving process before the fire.


Contractors who know or have worked with Ormsby have generously agreed to donate their time to build a new house for the family, Todd said.

On the agenda now is raising enough money to cover the cost of building materials.

Family friend Kerry Roth has collected more than $1,100 in donations for Ormsby and Todd.

Roth worked for five years as a nurse with Todd at CVPH Medical Center before she took a job at Adirondack Medical Center.

“She’s my best friend,” Roth said of Todd.

Roth has also applied to Adirondack Medical Center’s Guardian Angel Fund on behalf of the family.

Todd said her family is thankful to Roth and others who have helped them in their time of need.

“I didn’t have to ask for any help,” she said. “She (Roth) brought things together. She brought people together.”

In the next few months, Roth said, she has plans to organize another fundraiser for Ormsby and Todd, maybe a spaghetti dinner or bake sale.

For now, Key Bank on Route 3 in Plattsburgh is accepting donations on Todd and Ormsby’s behalf.


Ormsby began the emotionally painful process of cleaning up what is left with his house as summer waned.

No changes will be made to the original design of the house, which had two bedrooms, one bath and high ceilings in the foyer, Todd said.

“We would just want to get it back to the way it was before we lost it.”

To help, send donations to Joe Ormsby/Patty Todd Home Rebuild Project, Key Bank, 380 State Route 3, Plattsburgh NY 12901. 

For more information call Kerry Roth at 524-4132.