Elderly woman dies in high-rise fire

SARANAC LAKE – An elderly woman died in a fire in her apartment at the DeChantal Apartments high-rise this morning.

Saranac Lake Fire Chief Brendan Keough said firefighters responded to an alarm activation at 8 a.m. at the 10-story Church Street building, which provides independent living for seniors.

“Firefighters got on the affected floor and reported that they had smoke and a fire in one of the apartments,” Keough said. “They had active fire that they had to extinguish. They made entry into the apartment and rescued the woman that was in the apartment.”

The woman, whose name has yet to be released, was taken by ambulance to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, where she later died, Keough said. While Keough wouldn’t say what floor the woman lived on, the Enterprise has learned that the fire was on the fifth floor.

The building’s more than 100 residents were evacuated either to the ground floor or to nearby churches. Firefighters searched the building three times to make sure everyone got out, Keough said.

“I think they were still finding people that needed to be brought down that had sheltered in place in their rooms,” he said, “but everybody’s accounted for.”

The fire chief said five other people were taken to the hospital. Keough said some may have had fire-related injuries, such as smoke inhalation, while others were being treated because of “the stress of getting themselves down to to the ground floor.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Keough said. Investigators were still on the scene as of 4 p.m.

Keough said fire damage to the building was minimal and isolated to the one apartment. There was smoke throughout the building, he said.

Residents were still waiting to return to their apartments as of 4 p.m.

“We’re hoping they’ll be able to get back in sometime tonight,” Keough said.

The Enterprise will have more on today’s fire in Monday’s issue of the newspaper.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.