April 10, 2009
Firefighters douse garage fire before it spreads
Blaze destroys garage of North Main Street house that was heavily damaged by smoke
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland city firefighters remove a scorched garage door from a North Main Street garage Thursday afternoon. The garage was gutted and the home received smoke and heat damage.
A fire Thursday afternoon heavily damaged the garage of a North Main Street home, filling the house with smoke.
Had it burned a few minutes longer, there would have been a substantial house fire, said Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Glover.
City firefighters arrived at 94 N. Main St. at about 12:45 Thursday afternoon and found smoke pouring out the windows of the three-story home. The garage, located behind the house, was engulfed in flames.
Cortland City Fire Chief Dennis Baron said the fire was caused by a malfunctioning snowblower that house owner Rich Wyatt had been doing maintenance on earlier Thursday morning.
The snowblower was turned off at the time of the fire and left near a filled plastic gas can, he said. Heat from the snowblower caused the gas can to spill into the garage, igniting the fire, Baron said.
The snowblower was destroyed and investigators could not determine why it malfunctioned.
Firefighters extinguished the fire within minutes and vented smoke out windows.
Cortlandville and Homer firefighters were also at the scene. Investigators did not leave until 6:10 p.m. City police diverted traffic to Arthur Avenue during the fire.
Glover said the metal garage door prevented flames from spreading into the house and credited quick response time to the house being saved.
“The garage door held back a substantial amount of fire,” Glover said. “We did it right, we did a good stop.”
Baron said the house can be repaired, adding the flames mostly damaged where the garage attached to the home and part of the first floor.
The house mostly had smoke and minor heat damage, Baron said.
No one was inside at the time of the fire, but a dog which had been trapped near a first-floor window was carried out by Cortland County SPCA officers. The dog did not survive.
Wyatt told firefighters he had left the house at about 12:30 and received a call from neighbors that smoke was coming out his house windows.
Corey Fowler, of 10 Pearne Ave., said he had just arrived home after shopping with his wife, Candice, when he saw smoke coming from near Wyatt’s home. Fowler said he called Wyatt immediately.
Wyatt, who stood by with family members as firefighters worked to clear wreckage from the garage, declined to speak with news media.
Glover estimated about $15,000 worth of damage to the garage and could not provide a damage estimate for the rest of the house.
Firefighters advised Wyatt not to re-enter the house Thursday and he is staying with family members.
The house is assessed for $109,200, according to Cortland County Real Property Tax Service.
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