WARRENSBURG-- Oscar's Smoke House, one of the most famous enterprises in the North Country, suffered a devastating fire Friday evening.
The business, a landmark for generations of residents and visitors alike, is apparently a total loss.
Witnesses said the blaze created a thick plume of black smoke high into the evening sky from its site on Raymond Lane off north Main St.
At about 6:20 p.m., flames were shooting out of the roof. About 40 minutes later, the main structure had collapsed in on itself.
Several hundred people gathered to watch the fire that apparently started about 6 p.m.
Firefighters from Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co. and various neighboring fire agencies -- as far away as Bay Ridge -- were on site soon afterwards to fight the blaze. Apparently, they were able to keep the fire from damaging other nearby houses.
Details on the fire and its origin were not available at 7:20 p.m. as the fire chief and officers were working to control the blaze.
Witness Dawn White saw the smoke billow skyward from her home on lake Ave.
"It's really awful," she said. "Oscar's is like a staple in the community," she said. "I hate to see it like this."
Oscar's, operated by the Quintal family for three generations, has been a business that for decades has attracted visitors to Warrensburg.
The enterprise employed more than a dozen local people and shipped gourmet smoked meats across the nation and internationally. It incorporated both a wholesale meat processing and packing operation wth a retail enterprise that was a destination for people from both nearby and hundreds of miles away.
It was established in 1943 by Oscar and Edith Quintal in the Music Hall block on Main Street, which burned down in 1945. The Quintals relocated to its present location in 1945.
The enterprise has been operated for decades by Jerry Quintal, Oscar and Edith's son. In recent years, Jerry's sons Joq and Joel have joined their father in operating the business.
Efforts to contact the Quintals Friday evening were unsuccessful.
More details will be pubished as they become available.
Jonathan Alexander contributed to this report.