Placid Boatworks fire seen as probably accidental
LAKE PLACID – Investigators haven’t determined what caused a fire that destroyed a building here early Friday morning, but emergency officials think it was accidental.
Meanwhile, the building’s owner, Joe Moore, said nearly everything inside the four businesses located at 263 Station St. was destroyed by the fire.
Members of the Lake Placid community are also pulling together to help the business owners who were impacted by the blaze.
Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish told the Enterprise Friday afternoon that fire investigators are “pretty sure” the fire was accidental.
“But they’re still up there,” he said. “They’re still working it. The actual cause of the fire hasn’t been determined yet. We’re doing a lot of interviews, but the building is so encased in ice that it’s difficult.”
Jaquish said the fire, which was reported to firefighters just after 12:30 a.m. Friday, started in the back right corner of the building, in the area of Moore’s Placid Boatworks shop.
The building had been the longtime home of three businesses: Placid Boatworks, Cake Placid and Rick’s Taxi. A fourth, Griffith Energy, just moved into office space there in early December, according to Moore.
Moore has owned the building for seven years. He was surveying the damage at about 12:30 Friday afternoon when he spoke to the Enterprise.
“We lost boats and tools,” Moore said. “There was probably 20 boats in there. I mean everything. Stuff that monetarily – you know, a (boat) mold isn’t worth much, but you’ve got so much time in building one.
Moore said he has some materials at his house that he uses to build two of his popular canoe models, but that will only help so much.
“I’ve got the cross-sections for two of our models – the SpitFire and RapidFire – but that means you’ve got to go back to stage one: Build a wood-strip boat, and then build a mold off of that,” he said. “We’re pretty far out.”
Moore said Jay Annis, owner of Spencer Boatworks in Saranac Lake, has offered shop space.
“It’s very nice of him to do that, and we’ll probably take him up on that since we have nowhere else to go right now,” Moore said.
Spencer Boatworks, which specializes in classic motorboat restoration, lost its old home between Bloomingdale and Saranac Lake to a raging fire in May 2011. It now operates out of smaller quarters in Saranac Lake.
Inside the building, Moore said layers of ice, up to a foot thick, make it difficult to inspect additional damage.
Moore said he learned about the blaze not long after it was reported to the fire department.
“One of the Lake Placid village police officers knocked on my door,” he said.
Moore also thanked area firefighters who responded from around the area.
“I know they’re volunteers, but they’re professionals,” he said. “Anybody who can come out on a night like last night and do what they did, and do it so efficiently and expertly – they’re the tops. They’re great.”
As Moore spoke, village highway workers used front-end loaders to scrape sheets of ice off of Station Street and nearby sidewalks. The building was covered in thick layers of ice, and most of its roof was missing, although many of the outside walls were still intact.
At the Lake Placid firehouse, volunteers were still thawing at about noon Friday. Fire Chief Liane Colby said the fire was reported by Dmitri Federov, owner of Rick’s Taxi.
“He reported seeing smoke and flames shooting from the back of the building,” Colby said.
Assistant Fire Chief Tracy LaHart said temperatures, which dipped close to 20 below zero Thursday night and early Friday morning, made fighting the blaze difficult.
“Your bones freeze – equipment freezes,” he said. “We kept the crews warm. We rotated them out every hour.”
“We need to compliment the volunteers for getting out of bed in these conditions,” Colby added.
Nine fire departments responded to the blaze. Lake Placid village police, rescue, electric, water and highway personnel assisted at the scene, as did Essex County Emergency Services officials.
A Facebook page called “Help Save Cake Placid,” which was set up sometime on Friday, had more than 330 members as of Friday afternoon. The page was launched by Elise Ferguson Ruocco, Reilly Stanton and Morgan Stilwell.
“We are making donation buckets (Saturday) to place around local businesses,” Ruocco told the Enterprise.
Dmitry Feld has already pledged to donate proceeds from the Feb. 13 I Love Local Eats Cooking Series event at the Shipman Youth Center to Cake Placid to help rebuild. Others, like Jessica Nugent, suggested a Zumba fundraiser event.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.