Firefighters battle blaze at CED Twin Electric Supply
Store cats at Aubuchon Hardware were rescued safely
SARANAC LAKE — A fire at the Consolidated Electrical Distributors-Twin Electric Supply and ADK Solar building on Broadway in Saranac Lake collapsed the roof of the electrical company building, damaged the nearby Aubuchon hardware store, shot massive towers of flames into the sky and was fought by fire departments from three counties early Wednesday morning.
Firefighters got a call about the fire at 258 Broadway at 3:23 a.m. Saranac Lake firefighters were on scene by 3:25 a.m. Within five to 10 minutes of the department’s arrival, the two store cats that live in Aubuchon Hardware — Harry and Lloyd — were rescued.
“Everybody everywhere is asking about the cats,” SLVFD Chief Brendan Keough said. “The cats are fine. I’m glad we were able to get the cats out safely.”
He said firefighters rescued one cat, but the other was still in there. The smoke was not overwhelming at the time, Keough said, so store manager Rich Hough went in with two firefighters to corral the other. They also were able to flip the emergency shutoff to the propane fill station in parking lot.
Keough said Saranac Lake village Department of Public Works employees reported the fire after seeing it while going in for their shift at the DPW station on nearby John Munn Road. SLVFD members were on another call at the time — a gas smell on Bloomingdale Avenue — so they were able to respond within minutes.
Firefighters were called in for mutual aid from all around the region — Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties — 13 departments responded altogether.
All that backup allows firefighters to take breathing breaks between their work as they rotate through assignments. Keough said this is the most departments Saranac Lake has had at a fire in a very long time, certainly the most in his 13 years as chief.
“We’ve had some big fires but I can’t remember one where we had five aerial (trucks) and 13 departments,” he said.
He praised his firefighters and the many volunteer firefighters who came to town to help.
“The firefighters did an amazing job at stopping the fire from further extending into the Aubuchon building,” Keough said. “I just really appreciate the help from all of the departments that came. We couldn’t have done it without them. It was just a great collaborative effort.”
Keough said the CED/ADK Solar building was likely a “total loss.” He said the fire breached the Aubuchon building but firefighters were able to get ahead of it and keep it from spreading. The building still has “extensive smoke and water damage,” though, he added.
When firefighters arrived, he said they attempted an interior attack on the CED building, but the fire was already very advanced and the roof was caving in.
At around 7 a.m., there were scores of firefighters from Tupper Lake, Bloomingdale, Lake Placid, Paul Smith’s-Gabriels, Keene, Plattsburgh and Upper Jay. SLVFD firefighters put out an “all-call” in Franklin County, bringing in certified interior attack members from departments in Bombay, Westville, Malone and Bangor.
Firefighters in tower trucks were raining down water on the smoldering building and there was still a lot of smoke pouring from the building at the time.
Firefighters were still battling the fire at 9 a.m. and SLVFD firefighters were tackling hot spots from the metal roof at 1 p.m.
Firefighters said state fire investigators were on the scene Wednesday morning and would be investigating the cause of the fire. Keough said it is an “ongoing investigation.”
There are lots of chemicals, equipment and even propane tanks between the three businesses in the plaza. The propane tanks in the Aubuchon parking lot appeared intact on Wednesday morning.
A video shot by Tom Dupree filmed from across the street shows columns of fire bellowing up into the sky, reaching far higher than even the firefighters spraying water from the top of tower trucks right nearby. From where he was standing when he shot the video, at Woods and Waters across the street, “the heat was pretty intense,” Dupree said.
Keough said these firefighters have shower curtains that put out water to keep them safe and fans blows cool air to keep them cool, so they were “well-protected.”
Firefighters used a lot of water to battle the blaze. The water flooded Cedar Street into the BluSeed Studios parking lot, and across Broadway into the Woods and Waters lot. The parking lot of Aubuchon was flooded, and in some places the water was knee-deep as the firefighters walked through it. A whirlpool formed above a drain in the lot, spinning debris and litter around.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know how much water we used,” Keough said.
They hooked up to five village hydrants.
“That’s a crazy amount of hydrants to be hooked to,” he said.
The last time they used that many hydrants, he said, was the Newman and Holmes fire in 2002. The fire on Wednesday was on an “expansive property,” Keough said, and fire trucks were parked at numerous different locations.
Keough said Aubuchon owns the entire complex, which has four major businesses and is “an important piece of the community.”
“It’s sad for the community. It’s a pretty big commercial space there,” Keough said.
He said several of the businesses there are “staples of the community.”