Saranac Lake firefighter saved neighbor’s dog from burning home

‘I am blessed with wonderful neighbors on both sides’

SARANAC LAKE — Firefighters saved a dog from the second floor of a Kiwassa Road home on Saturday while fighting a fire in the basement.

Michael Wilson, who lives at the home, was grateful for his next-door neighbors on either side of his historic home this weekend — Dominic Fontana on one side, is a member of the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and rushed inside with a respirator on to rescue Wilson’s dog “Pekoe,” and the Holmlund family on the other side opened their home for Wilson and Pekoe to stay while their house undergoes reconstruction.

“I am blessed with wonderful neighbors on both sides,” Wilson said.

The Saranac Lake and Lake Placid volunteer fire departments responded to the structure fire call at 174 Kiwassa Road at 9:03 p.m. Saturday with two trucks and eight members, and one truck and 15 members, respectively. The Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department sent two trucks and 11 members to stand by for mutual aid at the SLVFD hall.

Wilson has lived with Pekoe, 8, since he was a puppy, one of a litter given to the Holmlunds next door.

“I was terribly worried,” Wilson said. “I would rather have lost the house than the dog.”

He was “blessed” by Fontana’s brave act, getting Pekoe out from the house as it filled with smoke.

Firefighters said the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad gave Pekoe some oxygen.

Wilson said he wouldn’t have known about his neighbor’s deed if another neighbor hadn’t told him. He said Fontana has a “rare” modesty.

SLFVD members said Franklin County Emergence Services is investigating the cause of the fire.

Wilson thanked the village’s “amazing” fire department for their prompt response. Fifteen minutes more, and Wilson believes the house would be in much worse shape.

Upper floor has smoke damage, but basement is in bad shape.

Wilson said it feels like a long time until he’ll be able to live there again.

It’s a historic house, built by the designer William Distin during the village’s tuberculosis days.

Firefighters extinguished the fire, saving the structure but they said for now, it is uninhabitable.

“Fortunately, we’ve been in the community long enough that we have a circle of very generous friends,” Wilson said. He’s got several offers from people offering him a place to stay.

Wilson grew up in Oregon and planned to retire there but “the Adirondack Park has won my heart.” He said this ordeal has sealed the deal.

“It’s very much a community experience, even though it’s very unpleasant,”Wilson said. “It affirms the graciousness and generosity of the community.”


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