Massive fire tears through small New York State town, US
A massive fire in downtown Worcester levelled a historic 1863 building and damaged other nearby structures. Main Street in Worcester still smelled of acrid melted plastic and charred wood Monday afternoon, two days after a large fire burned a historic building to the ground. 143 Main Street in Worcester, originally a grange hall built in 1863, caught fire about 02h20am Saturday, 2 April 2022, Worcester Fire Chief Jim Empie said during an interview at the firehouse. The building housed Hidden Memories, an antique store and thrift shop. "I live two streets up, so when we got the call, going to get out the door, I looked out and I could see the flames shooting already. So I immediately had Oneonta respond with their ladder truck. And then shortly after that, I called for a ladder truck from Cobleskill. The building was soon "fully involved," and the fire quickly spread to two adjoining buildings. The first was a vacant storefront, but the next building had a partially-disabled man living in an upstairs apartment.”
"Two of our guys got him out. Just in time," Chief Empie said. The man couldn't walk down the stairs; he had an electric lift, but got stuck when the power went out. Ultimately he was carried out and no one was hurt. Within 30 minutes, all three buildings were fully on fire. Two things against us: One, it was fully involved, the main building and we had a heavy northeast wind that hampered us. This was extremely hot because of the wind and it was open flame from the beginning." A strong wind fans flames, throws embers and causes a fire to burn hotter”, Chief Empie said.
There was no way to save the burning buildings, so the fire fighters concentrated on keeping it from spreading, wetting down other nearby structures.
"Things we had in our favour were that we had an excellent response from everybody, use of two ladder trucks and an excellent hydrant system. We never ran out of water and that's two of the biggest factors that helped to save it from going any further." As the initial water reserve got low, the fire fighters opened lines to draw water from Caryl Lake, the former Worcester Reservoir a mile uphill.”
“The heat was so intense that it melted siding off of three other buildings nearby, and caused four vehicles parked behind the buildings to combust. On Monday, the burnt remains of a Ford F-150 pickup truck, a Ford Mustang, a Winnebago camper and an unidentifiable van sat in puddles. The van had been closest to the original building and little was left except the chassis.”
The tyres on the far side of the vehicle had melted, leaving strands of steel wire hanging over misshapen hubcaps. On the side of the van closer to the fire, no sign of the tyres remained.
Across a parking lot, 65 feet behind 145 Main Street, the Bob Putnam Insurance Agency building was only damaged externally, with broken windows and melted siding that drooped as if in a Salvador Dali painting.
"We got lucky, nothing inside was damaged. We were able to open for business today," said Bobby Putnam, standing outside looking at the damage. He was keeping an eye on the property for his neighbours and reported he had to chase looters away several times. "People looking for scrap metal, you know, we have a lot of desperate people around here."
Mike Palyun, the owner of Hidden Memories, said it was still too painful for him to talk about the fire when reached by telephone Monday. "There's nothing left but rubble," he said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation but after spending most of Saturday afternoon investigating, the Otsego County Emergency Services Coordinator Victor Jones and representatives from the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control identified the probable location where the fire started, near the back door of the antique store.
The mutual Aid Department that responded included Oneonta, Cobleskill, Richmondville, East Worcester, Westford, Schenevus, Charlotteville, Davenport, Milford, Middlefield, Otsego County Ambulance, Richmondville Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Summit Ambulance.
Source: Worcester Hose Company NY, The Daily Star