Community comes together after blaze

MINERVA - Al Michelsen squats, hunched over a telephone input box outside of a collapsed structure. He twists the multicolored wires together and picks up a telephone, holding it to his ear.

"We got a tone," Michelsen exclaims.

Only 24 hours before, Michelsen - a Minerva volunteer firefighter - was battling an inferno here, now he is trying to bring some semblance of relief to the home-owner, Gary Hare.

"God I love this community," Hare said. "Everyone has been so kind to me."

At approximately 7:20 a.m. on April 22 Hare's dream home on 14th Road - his 17-year project - was ablaze. Fire departments from Minerva, Wevertown, Johnsburg, Horicon, North Creek and North River responded to one of the largest structure fires in recent memory.

"All I saw was smoke billowing from the building," Minerva Fire Chief and the first responder on seen Keith Dubay said. "We knew we had to call all mutual aid units."

In the aftermath of the blaze, Hare is left with a lot of questions as to the future of what was to be his retirement home.

"I have no clue where my wife and I will go from here," Hare said. "This place was designed as a total whimsy."

The fire destroyed most of the structure and nearly all of the contents within it.

"Forty years of antiques collecting up in smoke," Hare - a retired New York City school teacher said. "We were so close to being finished - the washing machine was set to be delivered Wednesday."

However, when things go bad one discovers who their friends are. And for Hare it seems the whole community falls into that category.

"Everyone is stopping offering me places to stay and food to eat," Hare said.

He is currently sleeping at the Alpine House and eating for free at the Lucky Leprechaun in Olmstedville.

Several Minerva firefighters spent the day after the blaze giving Hare a hand in combing through the ashes.

"We can't touch anything inside," Hare said. "But it's helpful to get what is left in order."

State police officials said that the fire is currently under investigation.

For Hare - who laughed and joked throughout the day - the incident is just a reminder why he loves the Adirondacks.

"This is where my fiends are," Hare said. "Everyone has been beyond marvelous."

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