March 26, 2009


Cause of church rectory fire likely electrical

City firefighters still investigating blaze Tuesday at St. Mary’s

FireBob Ellis/staff photographer
A message board in front of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and rectory thanks firefighters for their efforts in containing a fire at the rectory late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. A worker on a lift works Wednesday afternoon on repairing the roof that was damaged in the fire.

Staff Reporter

Authorities believe an electrical failure is likely the cause of a fire that damaged the roof of the St. Mary’s Church rectory late Tuesday night.
The fire was confined to the northwestern section of the roof, where workers from J.D. Ferro Roofing Co. of Cortlandville had been pumping insulation into the roof Tuesday afternoon.
Firefighters said the roof contained electrical wiring in addition to the insulation, but did not have any other uses.
City Fire Investigator Vincent Minella said the blown-in cellulose insulation used in the rectory roof was certified for fire safety, and he did not believe it contributed to the fire.
City Fire Chief Dennis Baron said Wednesday the investigation had not yet concluded.
He would not say whether the fire had started because of any roof work, citing the open investigation.
“We will be exploring whether or not that had anything to do with the fire,” Baron said.
Baron said the Rev. James Tormey, the priest from Oneida County who has been assigned to the St. Mary’s Parish, has been living at the rectory but was not there Tuesday night. Tormey, from St. John’s Church in Rome, has been performing Mass at St. Mary’s since the death of Monsignor Michael Minehan in November.
Baron did not have a dollar figure for damage to the three-story building, but said there was heavy damage to the roof and a small attic area, plus smoke and water damage down through the building’s walls and ceilings.
“We covered as much as we could with tarps,” Baron said. “We wanted to save furnishings as much as possible.” Baron said electricity to the building was shut off and the building was not habitable.
Mike Dexter, a church groundskeeper, said the normal rectory operations were underway today at the parish center at 59 N. Main St. Workers moved equipment and supplies necessary for operations to the parish center, he said. The rectory predates the church and was built in 1896.
City, Cortlandville and Homer firefighters were sent to the scene at about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, and a ladder truck sprayed water into the roof where flames had burned through, said Capt. Scott Buchanan of the city fire department.


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