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Funeral home burns in AuSable Forks (3rd update)

December 13, 2011
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

AuSABLE FORKS - The Zaumetzer-Sprague Funeral Home, an essential part of this community for a century, was severely damaged by flames today just minutes after mourners left it to go to a funeral.

Firefighters from AuSable Forks, Jay, Upper Jay, AuSable, South Plattsburgh, Keeseville, Peru and Wilmington responded to the blaze, which officials believe started at about 11:50 a.m.

The fire adds to a string of bad news this year in AuSable Forks that includes two floods and a recent car crash that killed a 7-year-old boy and his grandmother.

Article Photos

A firefighter inspects the roof of the Zaumetzer-Sprague Funeral Home, which burned in AuSable Forks Tuesday, in front of what looked like one of the worst sections of damage.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)

Mourners for James Smith had just left the funeral home to go to a funeral service at a local church when the fire was reported, town officials said. Bill Minogue, deputy coordinator and fire investigator with the Essex County Department of Emergency Services, said he believes the blaze started in the second floor at the back of the building.

The blaze may have destroyed the building on College Street, which has been a funeral home since 1905. As of 4 p.m. it was still smoking, firefighters were tearing roofing material off the top, and debris from the building was strewn over the lawn.

One person, not a firefighter, reportedly needed medical attention and was taken from the fire scene to a hospital, but further information on this was not immediately available.

Dozens of firefighters were on scene and closed off the street. Some people watched the action from Sheldrake Road on the other side of state Route 9N and the East Branch of the AuSable River.

"I saw a lot of flames," Chris Straight of Upper Jay said. "They were shooting about 10 feet out of the roof."

"This town has taken it hard," said Richie Straight of Jay, referring to the floods and fatal crash. "It's been a rough stretch."

"I would be scared to mention a number on how many people have been through that building (over the years)," Richie Straight said regarding how much the funeral home is part of the community.

John Thwaits is the current owner of the funeral home.


Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or



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