Staff save animals from fire at Tri-Lakes Humane Society

A firetruck is seen here outside the Tri-Lakes Humane Society Tuesday, where firefighters knocked down a third-floor blaze and staff saved around 30 animals. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — When a fire broke out in an apartment above the Tri-Lakes Humane Society on Tuesday morning, staff there worked quickly to save around 30 furry four-legged occupants and begin battling the blaze before several local fire departments knocked down the fire.

Lea Bedore, the president of the humane society’s board of directors, said she was impressed with the staff’s heroics and said they were very fortunate that none of the animals were hurt in the fire.

The fire started at around 9:30 a.m. in the apartment of shelter Manager Lena Bombard and her wife Melissa Fischler, who live above the shelter. Bedore said the fire started in a bathroom ceiling fan, and Fischler was grateful she was working from home on Tuesday.

Shelter Director Carla Stroud was working downstairs.

“I heard her (Fischler) screaming ‘Fire!'” she said.

Stroud called 911 and others called in more humane society workers to help.

Within moments, they got to work getting 23 cats and seven dogs outside to safety. They also rescued two dogs from the upstairs apartment, too.

“There was one cat that did not want to come out. He was quite mad, but they got him,” Bedore said.

Brooke Gallo began fighting the fire, braving the smoke with a fire extinguisher in hand.

“Brooke grabbed a fire extinguisher and went upstairs,” Stroud said. “Just straight up heroic. That is unbelievable presence of mind to to do that and just run right into it.”

Bedore said the fire extinguisher helped a lot and gave them more time to get the animals out.

“Everybody’s just got a lot of heart here,” Stroud said.

Bedore was at work with a patient at the Lake Placid Animal Hospital when the fire started. She ignored the first call, and the second call, but when the third one came in, she knew something serious was happening and she raced over to the humane society. Bedore said when she arrived, smoke was billowing out of the top floor and the smell was “awful.”

Former co-president of the board Peter Wood also sped from his job when he heard the news. Humane society employees Kendall Gallo, Brooke Gallo, Samantha Kalilec and Caitlin Will also ran over to make sure the animals were safe.

Jacquelyn Bentley, who drives the Paws and Claws Mobile Veterinary clinic, was parked in the humane society lot for the first time ever on Tuesday, Bedore said. Bentley was able to help rescue the animals and hold a few in her modified mobile home.

None of the dogs or cats needed treatment for smoke inhalation or injury, Bedore said.

There were trucks and firefighters from Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and the Tupper Lake volunteer fire departments on the scene, as well as trucks from the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake rescue squads.

Franklin County CART — the County Animal Response Team — also sent a truck down.

Outside, dogs barked and whined in cars and pens where they were staying, and cats paced in their crates. Some were frightened, but all were safe.

The staff members were stunned. They felt they had come very close to a tragedy. But Stroud said because of the dedication of the staff, no one was hurt in the structure fire.

Firefighters were back from the scene shortly after noon.

At 2 p.m. Bedore said the animals were getting settled in.

“They’re being cared for by the staff and being loved and cuddled,” she said.

Bombard and Fischler were not able to return to their apartment, but Bedore said the shelter has found temporary housing for them and their pets.

Bedore said the shelter’s repair expenses will be high, so she said donations are appreciated. She said people can donate at the shelter’s Facebook page through Facebook Pay at https://bit.ly/3bbDDWF. Donations through the mail can be sent to P.O. Box 1111, Saranac Lake, 12983.

This is a breaking news story. More information will be added to this report as it becomes available.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to former Tri-Lakes Humane Society board co-president as Steve Wood. His name is Peter Wood. The story also incorrectly said that Bedore was with a patient at Adirondack Medical Center when she got the call; she was with a patient at the Lake Placid Animal Hospital. The Enterprise regrets the errors.


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