Firefighters work to extinguish the fire at the funeral home.
Photo by Katherine Clark.
Au SABLE FORKS — A fire broke out immediately after a funeral service at the Zaumetzer and Sprague Funeral home late Tuesday morning.
Fire fighters and Emergency Medical Squads from all over Essex and Clinton County responded to the scene after a call at 11:40 a.m.
By noon fire fighters and EMS had arrived from Morrisonville, Wilmington, Keeseville, Jay, Upper Jay, Au Sable Forks, South Plattsburgh and Saranac.
Portions of Route 9N from Stickney Bridge to Main Street were closed down due to fire hoses and emergency vehicles until about 4:30 p.m.
Travis Holzei, Wilmington volunteer firefighter, said by the time they had arrived the upstairs of the funeral home was fully engulfed in flames.
“We’ve been here for three hours, at least, and it’s finally looking like its under control,” Holzei said.
Holzei said he was able to salvage a few of the funeral director’s college degrees from the wall inside the funeral home before they were damaged by the flames or water.
The funeral home’s unattached garage was unharmed by fire damage. According to Au Sable Forks Fire Chief Jason F. Whisher, the funeral home looks to be a total loss due to fire and water damage.
“When we arrived on scene we immediately made our entry and tried to open up the roof and dig out the windows and extinguish but now we just want to make sure everything is extinguished,” Whisher said.
The cause of the fire and the origin is still unknown, Whisher said, but the fire may have started in the back of the building.
The fire most likely started after an 11 a.m. service at the funeral home, Whisher said. One of the last guests at the service was the one to notice the smoke from the back of the building, he said.
No emergency personnel or attendants at the service were injured or required emergency care.
The smoke from the fire filled the town and the nearby elementary school was evacuated, with students being moved to the community center at 12:30 p.m.
The Middle/High School students had an early dismissal about 2:45 p.m.
Eighth grade student Vanessa Wilkinson said when she got out of school the entire sky was filled with smoke.
“You could see the smoke everywhere, the whole town was smoked out,” Wilkinson said.