Local men get residents out of burning building

SARANAC LAKE – A sunny Winter Carnival day was darkened late this morning when a third-floor apartment burned on Bloomingdale Avenue above the No. 1 Chinese Restaurant.

The flames were contained to the third floor, with water and smoke damage below that, Fire Chief Brendan Keough said.

No one was hurt, but they might have been if three local men hadn’t noticed the smoke, rushed into the burning building and helped get all the residents out.

It was shortly after 10 a.m., and Richard Gonyea of Vermontville said he was driving his daughter, Danielle, to Petrova School for its annual Winter Carnival children’s games. As they drove by the restaurant building at 7 Bloomingdale Ave., they saw smoke coming out of a third-floor window screen.

“She said, ‘Daddy, things are falling out of the building,'” Gonyea said.

After stopping the vehicle, Gonyea said he, Mickey LaMora and Jason Callahan, who had heard the commotion, went inside the building to see if anyone was still inside. The three men woke up the residents of the building – the Chinese family that owns the building, runs the restaurant and lives on the second floor, and two college-age men who live on the third floor – told them of the fire and ushered them outside.

After that, Gonyea went next door to Romano’s Saranac Lanes to tell people there about the fire.

“By the time I got out of the bowling alley, flames were starting to come out” of the burning apartment, Gonyea said.

Jeff and Cathy Romano had just arrived to open their namesake bowling alley for the day.

“We opened up at 10:15, and it was right after that that somebody screamed, ‘There’s a fire next door!'” Cathy said.

She later welcomed the woman who runs the Chinese restaurant into Romano’s and let her sit down and got her some water, until firefighters told them to evacuate the bowling alley, Cathy said.

The Chinese family left the scene after that.

“She was really upset … just watching her livelihood burning up before her eyes,” Cathy Romano said.

The 7 Bloomingdale Ave. building is owned by Dong Li Qin, according to Franklin County records.

Fighting the fire

Keough said that when the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department arrived, “We knew everybody was out of the building, which is what we wanted to hear.

“The guys did a great job,” he said of the firefighters. “We did an interior attack all the way up to the third floor. The fire had vented itself in the windows, so with the wind in the third floor, we used that to our advantage to push the fire out.”

The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department helped out, adding its manpower and its aerial ladder truck to those of Saranac Lake. Up high in the buckets of the trucks’ extension arms, firefighters used pikes, saws and even their hands to pull up hunks of the metal roof above the windows as smoke and flames licked at them from below.

The flame damage was mostly in the front of the apartment, with smoke damage in the back, Keough said.

He said his department will investigate the fire’s cause and origin.

Busy time for firefighters

It wasn’t obvious from Keough’s calm demeanor, but the previous 24 hours had been a wild time for his fire department and many other local emergency services.

He and many other Saranac Lake firefighters had spent roughly 10 hours the night before dealing with a severe structure fire in state Route 458 in the tiny hamlet of Santa Clara. The former Santa Clara Lodge, an inn turned into a home, was largely destroyed, Franklin County Emergency Services Coordinator Ricky Provost said today at the Saranac Lake fire scene. Keough and Provost both said they were out at that fire until around 5 a.m.

While they were out there, shortly before midnight Saranac Lake firefighters, police officers and public works employees had to deal with a gushing water main break on Park Avenue that flooded streets, yards and basements.

There were other calls at the same time: rescue, non-urgent fire alarms and the like.

That’s a lot to pack into a short period of time, but the north end of Franklin County has had it worse. Provost said 7 Broadway was the 12th structure fire in Franklin County in the last seven days.

“We’ve had four fatalities at two different fires: three at one (in Hogansburg) and one in Malone,” he said.

Why so many now?

“A lot of it is temperature stuff,” Provost said. “We’ve only had a couple related to chimneys, but we’ve had a couple or three that were electrical draws on circuits – you know, overloaded circuits with electric heaters and things like that. And a couple of them we haven’t figured out at this point in time.”

Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or pcrowley@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.