Fire destroyed a Montreal dentist's garage and severely damaged his adjoining second home in the town of Jay Tuesday.
A passerby called 911 around 11 a.m. to report the fire at the property on Stickney Bridge Road north of the hamlet of Jay; at the same time, the house's security system was ringing in the fire alarm to the Essex County emergency dispatch hub, according to Jay Fire Chief Glenn Williams.
Williams said he was the first firefighter on the scene and saw the garage spouting 40- to 50-foot flames, which were being fanned by 20 to 25 mph winds.
The fire spread to the house and did heavy damage, as did smoke and the water used by Jay and five other nearby fire departments: Upper Jay, AuSable Forks, Wilmington and Keene.
"The garage is a total loss, and the house - I'm gonna say there's significant damage," Williams said.
"There's some fire damage on one side, but between smoke, heat and water damage - I'm gonna say 60 percent of the house has significant smoke damage."
The fire started around the garage area, Williams said. He was reluctant to share details of the fire investigation results yet, as he's waiting for the insurance company to sign off on it.
"The investigator told me what they're pretty much determined on," Williams said, adding that the cause mentioned to him seemed believable, based on his experience fighting the fire.
Williams did say that the cause was accidental.
Homeowner Dr. Paul Van Wijlen and his family were not at the house at the time of the fire but had just been there this weekend, leaving Sunday to return to their primary home in Montreal, Williams said. They come to the house "on weekends and throughout the summers," the fire chief added.
Van Wijlen drove down from Montreal Tuesday when a neighbor informed him that his house was on fire. Firefighters were still on the scene when he arrived.
"We were picking up when he showed up," Williams said. "He didn't realize there was that much damage.
"He was pretty devastated. It being a vacation home where they come and enjoy themselves, he was pretty upset. He said he was pretty amazed, in a small community here, to see the number of volunteers here that was helping out."
A car left in the garage for use there was destroyed, Williams said.
The house is set back off Stickney Bridge Road, with an 800-foot driveway. By the end of the firefighting effort, the unpaved driveway had started to soften due to the weight of the fire trucks, so a town of Jay crew was called in to put gravel on it.