Family loses Lake Street home to fire
SARANAC LAKE — A local family lost their home and belongings when fire swept through their Lake Street house this morning.
“We’re devastated,” Cynthia Powers said. “Everything we had and all our memories are in that house. It’s all gone.”
No one was home when the fire broke out in the two-story, 1,200-square-foot house at 52 Lake St. near Petrova Elementary School. Village police and the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department were called to the scene at 9:48 a.m.
“(Capt.) Casey Taylor and I were able to make entry with two hand lines when we first got here,” said Saranac Lake fire Chief Brendan Keough. “The first floor was pretty much involved. The second floor, we weren’t able to make entry all the way into the building because it appeared like the stairs to the second floor were burnt out, so we couldn’t go any further and we were waiting on extra manpower.”
Firefighters from Saranac Lake, Bloomingdale and Lake Placid responded to the scene, attached hoses to tanker trucks and hydrants, and started dousing the building with water. At one point, flames burst through the building’s second-story windows, first on the west side of the house, then on its east side. A huge plume of smoke — sometimes white, sometimes grey and black — could be seen billowing up from the blaze.
Keough said the fire was intense in the building’s attic under its metal roof.
“It’s a stubborn fire,” he said. “Metal roofs are always tough. It’s like creating an oven in the house. I wish we could have stopped it. At one point we had it knocked down to a good point, but we just couldn’t get to the next area to keep ahead of it.”
Firefighters atop the platform of the department’s aerial truck used tools to open vents in the roof, then had to pull back as thick smoke and flames escaped. They continued to drown the house with water for a solid two hours.
“Right now it’s just a defensive exterior attack,” Keough said around noon. “It’s not safe to go into the building. The basement is now full of water all the way up to almost to the top of the basement, so that creates a potential drowning hazard for any firemen if they go into the building. They could fall through the floor and into the basement.”
Franklin County fire investigators arrived on scene by 11:30 a.m. Keough said it’s too early to tell what may have caused the blaze.
Cynthia and her husband Matt have four children: two girls ages 2 and 5, and two boys aged 13 and 14. The parents and the girls were on their way to Plattsburgh to run errands when they heard about the fire from Matt’s stepmother, Caron Jaquis-Powers.
“My mother-in-law called and told me,” Cynthia Powers said. “She said, ‘Your house is on fire! Your house is on fire!'”
The family turned around and returned to Saranac Lake. They sat in their car, parked on Pelkey Lane, and watched from a distance as firefighters battled the flames. Matt Powers said he didn’t know what started the fire but said there were two electric space heaters inside.
“The police officer said when he kicked the door in, where he said there was a fire, there was a heater there,” Matt Powers said. “I told him I always keep the heaters clear. We had a couple space heaters because it’s so poorly insulated that we have to have the extra heaters in there. The fuel oil just doesn’t do it.”
Tax records show the house is owned by Powers, who said he pays the property taxes and water and sewer bills, but they also have a mortgage with prior owner Kent Robinson, a part-time Saranac Lake fire driver who was working at the firehouse during the blaze. Powers said he has fire insurance and already contacted the company.
A U.S. military veteran who was disabled in the war in Afghanistan, Matt Powers, 37, recently left a job at St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers. He’s training to be a bus driver for the Lake Placid Central School District. Cynthia Powers works at Pizza Hut in Saranac Lake.
The family brought their dog with them to Plattsburgh Monday, but a pet snake was inside when the fire broke out.
“My oldest daughter is really upset because she’s crying about stuff that she had in the house, crying about her snake,” Matt Powers said. “We had a snake up there. We had the dog with us, luckily.”
Powers said they have family in the area they can stay with.
Jaquis-Powers is trying to collect clothing donations and has set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding website for the family at https://www.gofundme.com/ez-powers-house-fire. She asked for people’s prayers as well.
Jaquis-Powers said people can drop off clothing donations at her home at 80 Lakeview Terrace. Sizes are as follows: 4T for one girl, 7 for the other girl, 30×32 pants and large shirts for boys, men’s extra-large shirts and 42×32 pants, women’s extra-large shirts and 18 pants.
Listening to the firefighting effort on the scanner has “just been heart wrenching because I can’t get out and do anything because I’m totally disabled,” Jaquis-Powers said.
Firefighters were still on the scene as of 1 p.m. The Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department was manning Saranac Lake’s station.