LAKE PLACID - A cigarette sparked a small structure fire that shut down Main Street on Monday morning.
Tracy LaHart, first assistant fire chief of the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department, said firefighters responded to the blaze at about 7:15 a.m. with four trucks and 25 members. He said a cigarette fell through a 2-inch gap between a concrete staircase and the Gap Outlet clothing store.
LaHart said there was wood and other dry debris underneath the staircase that ignited because of the cigarette.
Firefighters from Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Wilmington battle a small blaze in a Main Street alley that was caused by a discarded cigarette on Monday.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"There was heavy black smoke when we got there," he said. "We thought there was fire in the basement, inside a wall."
Employees at the Gap called the fire in, LaHart said. The five employees evacuated the building after calling 911.
LaHart said it was hard to get to the fire.
"You could see it, smell it," he said. "As far as getting to it, we went into the basement of the Gap, found nothing in the wall, but smoke was getting into the building. What we did is got a saw, cut a 3-by-3 (foot) hole, and then used a jackhammer to get to the fire."
LaHart said the fire wasn't big but was "going pretty good." He said firefighters fed a "piercing nozzle" through the gap in the staircase. The nozzle of the hose disperses water in all directions, LaHart said.
"That smothered it a bit," he said. "Our concern was that it would travel somewhere else. We definitely had to smash out the concrete to get to it."
The building next-door, which is owned by John Wilkins and houses the Bear Essentials clothing store, sustained some damage where firefighters removed drywall. LaHart said the Gap sustained water and smoke damage inside.
"We breached each wall to see if there was fire in the wall," he said. "The Gap got the worst of it."
The Saranac Lake and Wilmington volunteer fire departments sent manpower to the scene, while Keene stood by at the Lake Placid station. LaHart said a lot of volunteers were away for spring break.
"Having the mutual aid was really great," he said. "They didn't waste any time getting here."
Firefighters urged smokers to be cautious when discarding cigarette butts.
"Spring is coming, everything is drying up, so be cautious," LaHart said. "It could have been a lot worse than it was, especially if it was a wood-framed structure. Thank God it was concrete."