January 14, 2010
Blaze leaves Cincy fireman’s home in ruins
Electric heater blamed for fire Tuesday night in house on Lower Cincinnatus Road
CINCINNATUS — A volunteer Cincinnatus firefighter of about 20 years lost his house Tuesday night in a fire and an electric heater malfunction is the suspected cause.
John Bamberry and his wife, Linda escaped without injury, but their two-story home could not be saved, said Cincinnatus Fire Chief Bob Burke.
The house is on Lower Cincinnatus Road, across from the post office.
A neighbor saw the smoke around 11:30 p.m., pounded on the front door and awoke Bamberry, who saw his first-floor bathroom was on fire, Burke said.
Firefighters were able to get to the house within about five minutes, Burke said. They spent about six hours battling the fire. Marathon, Willet, McGraw and South Otselic fire departments also responded.
Firefighters did not leave the scene until around 5:42 a.m. Wednesday.
John and Linda Bamberry could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Burke said that after he received the call Tuesday evening, he stepped outside and could see the fire from his home across town.
The fire already had a strong hold on the house by the time firefighters arrived. Firefighters found heavy, billowing flames coming upward and toward the front of the house.
“This thing was cooking ... it pretty much gutted it,” Burke said.
Making a direct attack on the fire proved difficult because the flames had spread so quickly, Burke said.
The house was filled with various items like toys and bagged-up clothing, he said, which also made the firefight difficult and prevented anyone from getting inside.
“It had us beat before we even got started,” Burke said.
Bamberry told firefighters he suspected the electrical heater he had left on overnight caused the fire, Burke said. The heater was in the bathroom, toward the rear of the house, Burke said.
Burke described John Bamberry as an active fireman who goes to calls on a regular basis.
What Burke said was most heart wrenching about this fire call was losing the home of a friend and fellow firefighter — making it hard to cope with.
“That makes it more difficult ... when, as a chief, nothing can be done,” Burke said. “Everybody felt real bad about it.”
The destruction of their home left Linda Bamberry distraught and she went to Cortland Regional Medical Center for treatment, Burke said.
Burke said the Bamberry’s have a daughter who lives on Route 41 in Freetown and believed they would stay with her. The American Red Cross also provided them with assistance, he said.
The house was not insured, Burke said.
An excavator from the Cincinnatus Town Highway Garage, behind the house, was brought in to tear down part of the structure so firefighters could further drown out the flames.
A hot spot was still billowing smoke into the air by midday Wednesday. The rear of the structure was still mostly intact in the aftermath of the fire when viewed from the outside, but the front portion lay in a heap of debris. Various items, such as toys, were strewn about the wreckage.
A water pump truck was brought to the scene around noon and a firefighter drowned the remaining embers still burning underneath the debris.
Burke commended all the firefighters who were at the scene for their hard work and speedy response time.
He especially praised Marathon firefighters, who had just returned from extinguishing a blaze that left in ruins an apartment house on Front Street in the village of Marathon.
This was not the first time a fire caused damage to the Bamberry’s house.
It had accidentally caught fire about 10 years ago, but emerged with a damaged roof that was since repaired, Burke said.
Accidental fires sparked from portable heaters tend to be typical this time of year, perhaps now more than ever, with people seeking alternative heating sources as the price of oil and gas keeps going up, said Cortland County Fire and Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Duell.
What is often the case is people do not properly install their wood stoves or heaters, Duell said.
Fires can happen when those heaters are left on and unattended, he said.
Duell stressed people should be sure to follow the manufacturer’s requirements when installing these devices and should consult their local code enforcement office or fire department for assistance in the proper procedure.
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