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Sunday morning blaze devastates local businesses

ROUSES POINT - An early morning fire has devastated three businesses in the village of Rouses Point.

Second Assistant Fire Chief Walt Laramie with the Rouses Point Volunteer Fire Department was among those who responded to a report of a structure fire at 82-90 Champlain St. at 1:14 a.m. June 12. The fire, said Laramie, was reported by a patron of Johni's Sports Bar, one of the businesses in the plaza, and the building was fully engulfed in flames upon the arrival of first responders.

"Mike [LeBlanc, fire chief] was on scene probably two minutes after the call came in," said Laramie. "What he found was a very heavily involved structure fire."

The fire, said Laramie, appears to have originated in the back of the approximately 8,552-square-foot building in a "semi-enclosed area" behind the sports bar and a now vacant storefront which previously housed the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant.

The fire spread from east to west, said Laramie, who noted a southerly wind added to what firefighters were up against when battling the blaze, but not a significant amount. The fire consumed another vacant storefront and the law offices of Michael J. Phillips before it was contained.

"It went fairly fast," Laramie said of the fire's movement through the building. "We had a fairly large attic structure and that attic structure, though it had firewalls, the firewalls weren't complete, so the fire spread very rapidly through the attic. It was tough to cut off."

No injuries or fatalities were reported as a result of the fire, with Laramie noting any occupants in the building escaped safely prior to crews arriving on scene.

Firefighters from the Rouses Point, Champlain, Mooers, Ellenburg Depot, Chazy and West Chazy volunteer fire departments were on scene, aided by departments from Alburgh, Vt., and Lacolle and Saint-Paul in Quebec. Departments from Hemmingford and Isle La Motte were on standby.

Laramie characterized the condition of the building as having "major structural damage," with all but a portion of the Sultan's Sunoco convenience store, the section of building on the far west end, being decimated.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but Laramie said "it is suspicious" in nature.

(Editor's Note: The building's owner, Chaudary Khan, could not be reached before this article went to press. The North Countryman will continue to follow this story as it develops.)

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