A fire mostly destroyed a garage in AuSable Forks Tuesday evening, but firefighters were able to prevent it from spreading to a diner next-door.
The garage was located on the Clinton County side of AuSable Forks, in the town of Black Brook. Brothers Jay and John McDonald of Jay own the building, having inherited it from their father. Years ago it was a working automobile repair shop, but recently the brothers have used it to store snowmobiles and tools.
Jay McDonald was at the garage when the fire started. He said he was running a snowmobile inside when it burst into flames. He escaped without injury and reported the fire to authorities at 5:19 p.m.
A garage in AuSable Forks is seen today, destroyed by a fire Tuesday evening.
(Photo — Lora Bushey)
AuSable Forks fire Chief Jason Whisher said that "when we arrived, we had heavy smoke coming from the back of the garage, and then about a minute after our arrival we had heavy flame bursting through the windows."
His department fought it "aggressively," he said.
"We made an initial interior attack, knocking it down, until it became unsafe," Whisher said. From there on out they doused the fire from the outside, "but it was the initial attack that, I think, kept it from destroying the garage and getting into the diner."
The M&M Diner next-door was unharmed, Whisher said, but nevertheless it was closed Wednesday. Firefighters had disconnected the diner's electricity as a precautionary measure, Whisher said. National Grid is expected to reconnect the power soon, he added. (The Black Brook side of AuSable Forks has National Grid while the Essex County side, in the town of Jay, gets power from NYSEG.)
Nine fire departments, with roughly a dozen trucks and 100 firefighters, helped extinguish the blaze, Whisher said. In addition to AuSable Forks, he said there were Keeseville, Peru, Jay, Upper Jay, South Plattsburgh, Saranac, Willsboro and Wilmington.
"All the departments, everyone did an excellent job in saving the diner," Whisher said. His department returned to its station around 10 p.m.
In the end, the back half of the building was completely destroyed.
"There's definitely some water, smoke and heat damage to the front half, but the back half is caved right in," Whisher said.
At the bottom of that rubble heap is the snowmobile that sparked the blaze. Whisher said he doesn't expect to ever be able to tell what made it catch fire. The investigation has been completed, he said.
Whisher said he could not put a dollar-figure estimate on the damage.
McDonald said everything in the garage was destroyed.
"It's all gone," he said.
Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas was leaving his office at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when he heard about the fire.
"It was total devastation," he said.