N.Y. Firefighters Ponder Future After Apparatus, Gear Destroyed

Aug. 16--WELLESLEY ISLAND -- Leaders of the island's fire department are weighing their options after their main station was leveled in a devastating fire at the Commercial Block Building.

Fire Chief Robert C. Markert said that since the department leased space from the Thousand Island Park Corp., which owned the building, the staff is evaluating its next move.

"That's going to be the big decision over the next few weeks," he said.

Since the fire early Thursday morning, the department has been flooded with offers to lend equipment, though it has turned down many of them due to a lack of storage space.

"We don't need any more equipment," Mr. Markert said. "We need a place to put it."

The department has enough equipment at its station on County Route 100A to remain in service in a limited capacity.

In a note released Friday afternoon, Jefferson County Emergency Services Director Joseph D. Plummer called the outpouring of support for the department "the true meaning of Brotherhood!"

At least $800,000 in equipment, including a new brush truck, ambulance, fireboat, pumper and tanker, was destroyed, along with a wide range of equipment that was inside the station at the time of the fire.

Department members had no opportunity to save their gear from the fire, first reported at 11:48 p.m. Wednesday.

"It was a matter of minutes from when the first guy got on the scene until the fire got out to the roof," Mr. Markert said.

Hampering efforts was the loss of power in the building, rendering the station's bay doors inoperable. Mr. Markert said witnesses have said the building's lights were out about 15 minutes before the call went out.

"Once they're down, you're kind of stuck," Mr. Markert said.

The department had a standby generator running at the back of the building at the time of the fire, but the lines connecting it to the doors melted, Mr. Markert said.

The intense heat of the fire also melted through pieces of aluminum equipment, which has a melting point of 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit. "The fire was a lot hotter than we ever expected," Mr. Markert said.

Crews attempted to get in through a back door, but were unable to get through the reinforced steel door.

The station's siren also was silenced by the outage, though the advent of pager and cellphone alerts downplayed the importance of that loss.

Crews from Alexandria Bay, Cape Vincent, Clayton, Depauville, Fishers Landing and LaFargeville aided the island's department in battling the fire, including running about 1,000 feet of hose lines to draw water from the St. Lawrence River.

Two firefighters received medical treatment for smoke inhalation, but soon were released.

Mr. Markert said that based on what his crews had been able to view, "nothing is going to be salvaged."

Much of the equipment may remain in the building for a few days, Mr. Markert said, as insurance officials evaluate other portions of the building.

An insurance adjuster inspected the station Friday afternoon.

Copyright 2014 - Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.