Onchiota family ‘starting over’ after house fire
Family, local businesses begin fundraising
ONCHIOTA — A family on Meenahga Mountain Road lost their house, all their belongings and five pets in a fire on Saturday. On Sunday, efforts were in full swing to support Eban and Kaitlyn Ploof’s family though this hard time.
Eban’s mother, Patti, who runs the Holiday Helpers donation program each Christmas, said the house was destroyed and the family lost “everything.”
“They’re basically starting over from scratch,” she said.
Eben and Kaitlyn have two daughters, ages 3 and 5. Patti said her son’s family is staying with her and other family around the area.
Tanker task force called in
Firefighters worked to extinguish the fire from 12:51 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
There were seven departments on the scene. While firefighters with the Bloomingdale, Saranac Lake, Paul Smiths-Gabriels fire departments drowned the flames with water, firefighters with the Lake Placid, Duane, St. Regis Falls and Owls Head fire departments trucked in more water. The Tupper Lake and Malone volunteer fire departments stood by at the PSGVFD station and Lake Placid stood by at the SLVFD station.
BVFD First Assistant Chief Michael Woodruff said Franklin County activated its “tanker task force.” This task force is for areas without fire hydrants, which Woodruff said is around 70% of BVFD’s district. Tankers from four departments pulled water from a brook on Oregon Plains Road, and had thousands of gallons onsite within 10 minutes of the call going out.
Woodruff said the firefighting was “as good as could be expected for the situation.” Members were on scene for nearly five hours.
Franklin County Emergency Services Coordinator Ricky Provost said the county was still investigating the cause of the fire on Sunday afternoon.
Fundraising started fast
Kaitlyn’s uncle Hawley Snyder, a BVFD member, has set up a donation page on Facebook for the family.
“They are in immediate need of clothing and temporary housing,” Snyder wrote. “All donations are greatly appreciated.”
The donation page was stalled on Sunday as he set up a bank account for the money, but Patti said it should be operational today. The page can be found at https://bit.ly/36xBMt5.
Three local bar and restaurant owners are holding fundraisers for the family.
Grizle T’s owner Adam Harris said he’s holding a fundraiser on Friday at his bar’s new downstairs location, The Garagery, from 6 to 10 p.m.
“All proceeds go to the Ploofs,” he wrote in a text.
St. Armand council member Stephanie Bolduc-Mikesell, whose husband Ethan owns Hex and Hop in Bloomingdale, said they’re planning an event with details forthcoming. Eban is a brewer at Hex and Hop.
Barbara Foley, who owns the Shamrock Bar & Grill in Gabriels, said she’s put out a bucket for cash donations and is running specials all week on meals.
“All money received from these items will be given directly to the Ploof family,” Foley wrote in a message.
“People have been so great, as always,” Patti said. “There’s so much going on and they’re still thinking of other people.”
She said “the cars have been nonstop coming up the driveway” all weekend as friends, family and neighbors dropped off clothes and food. She said they were grateful for the nutrition, because Eben and Kaitlyn hadn’t eaten all day.
Eban didn’t even have the clothes on his back, she said.
Patti said Eban had returned home from work to grab a new pair of pants — his had a rip — when he saw smoke billowing out of the house. His first thought was saving the family pets — two dogs and three cats.
“He tried to break in and it was like a blast, just knocked him right over,” Patti said.
She said he has bruised ribs but was heartbroken that he couldn’t save their pets.
“Those animals were just like family,” Patti said.
Their two pigs who live outside survived.
She said Eban was quick-thinking and shut off the propane to a large tank outside the house.
Patti said her son is not someone to ask for help, but people have been reaching out without needing to be prompted.
She said this loss of home and family to the fire has been hard to see, but she’s also seen her family get a lot of support.
“We do appreciate it,” Patti said.