MORRISONVILLE — It’s likely an out-of-control grease fire destroyed Gerald Carter’s home at 2198 Route 22B in Morrisonville, officials say.
And Carter was taken to CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh to be treated for smoke inhalation, Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Chief Kevin Randall said.
The homeowner had refused medical treatment, the chief said, but then an EMT observed he was having trouble breathing.
A firefighter was also taken to CVPH, suffering from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, Randall said.
And another firefighter displaying similar symptoms was treated at the fire site.
Crews were dispatched to the blaze at about 2:30 p.m. after a passerby called 911.
Randall said that when he arrived a few minutes later, the first and second floors were fully involved with 15-to-25-foot flames visible.
“It followed the staircase right up to the second floor.”
At about 2:40 p.m., heavy smoke was visible several hundred feet away on Route 3 heading toward Morrisonville.
And each time the wind picked up, thick, gray smoke billowed out of the windows and holes that firefighters had made in the roof to get to the blaze.
Breaking through the roof was made more difficult by the three to four layers of shingles, cemented together with asphalt, that were keeping the heat inside the house, Randall said.
As firefighters battled the blaze, a State Police sport utility vehicle blocked 22B heading into the Town of Plattsburgh, with traffic redirected down Westland Avenue.
On the other side, fire officials were directing traffic to stay on Route 3 rather than take Route 22B.
At 3:40 p.m., two county fire investigators were recording their observations from inside the house as firefighters waited for permission to begin cleanup.
“If we disturb the scene ... it gets much harder (for investigators),” Randall said.
Firefighters tackled their tasks under a bright sun with temperatures in the high 70s.
In the warmer months, it’s more difficult for emergency responders to cool down once they are able to take a break while another group takes their place, said Morrisonville critical-care unit EMT Tyler Ashlaw, who took the two firefighters’ vitals and fitted them with air masks.
“You can’t get that breath of fresh air,” he said.
The bottles of water brought by Morrisonville EMS were popular with the firefighters. And they made sure Carter’s German shepherd, who was in a car with the window rolled down, stayed hydrated.
The dog was unharmed in the blaze and was waiting to be picked up by relatives, Randall said.
Providing mutual aid to Morrisonville at the fire were departments from Plattsburgh District 3, Cadyville and South Plattsburgh. A county fire coordinator was also on site helping organize personnel.
The Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Department was back in service by 6 p.m.
It was unclear whether Carter has insurance on his home, Randall said.
CVPH didn’t have him listed as a patient on Friday night; the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross was in contact to offer him assistance.
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HARDER TO BREATHE While it was only a couple of months ago that firefighters were dealing with frigid and icy conditions, their main concern this time of year is dehydration, heat exhaustion and general fatigue, according to Morrisonville critical care unit EMT Tyler Ashlaw. Some firefighters are reluctant to ask for help at times, so EMTs have to be observant, he said. "They're pretty tough guys, so you just have to watch for the signs." Those include sweating, paleness and loss of coordination. Those taken by ambulance to the hospital for fire-related symptoms may require an IV to replenish fluids, and health-care personnel will often monitor patients' carbon dioxide levels, Ashlaw said. PREVENT KITCHEN FIRES Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Kevin Randall recommends keeping an ABC fire extinguisher near the stove. "You can get a 4- or 5-foot flame (while cooking), but it's something easily extinguishable," he said. Do not attempt to use water to put out a grease fire, he said. And if the fire reaches unsafe levels, call 911.