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Blaze displaces Gloversville family

June 29, 2009
By MICHAEL ANICH, The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - A house fire on Washington Street Sunday night injured three city firefighters and displaced the family of eight who lived there.

City Fire Chief Douglas Edwards said in a news release the three-alarm structure fire broke out at 7:26 p.m. Sunday at 77 Washington St. and displaced tenants William B. Skinner Jr. and Tabitha L. Hepner and their six children.

The American Red Cross of Northeastern New York based in Albany responded within two hours of the fire to help the family, chapter spokeswoman Siobhan Kent said today.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Gloversville firefighter Bill Rowback uses an ax to break a window on the second floor of a house during a fire at 77 Washington St. in Gloversville on Sunday. The fire displaced a family of eight.

"We did find shelter for them," Kent said. "They'll be staying a couple nights in a local motel. We also provided financial assistance."

The Red Cross spokeswoman said the family will be assisted by that agency in the next few weeks, and the county Department of Social Services may secure more long-term help for the family.

The owner of the large 2 1/2-story Victorian wood-framed home built in 1880 was listed as Wayne Hillelson of Northville.

The chief said today the fire is still under investigation, and investigators were at the scene until 5:30 a.m.

"It was a very large amount of fire," Edwards said.

He said a person driving by the house saw the smoke and called 911 on his cell phone.

Edwards said upon firefighters' arrival, fire was showing from the back of the first floor of the house. He said firefighters made a "tremendous, aggressive interior attack," but the blaze already had done heavy damage.

The building was balloon-framed, causing the smoke and heat to travel to the attic, Edwards said. He said the Johnstown Fire Department was asked to send a fire engine to the Gloversville fire station for standby at 7:59 p.m.

Three Gloversville firefighters were treated by Ambulance Service of Fulton County personnel for heat-related injuries, but they remained on duty.

Edwards said "structurally," the house is fine. But he said the house in uninhabitable at this time and the first and second floors will have to be gutted.

Firefighters rescued a kitten and turned it over to the occupants.

Edwards said the building suffered heavy damage to the rear half of the first floor, heavy heat damage, and water damage throughout the first floor. The second floor had heat, smoke and water damage and minor fire damage. Edwards said the attic had heat and smoke damage.

"We broke a hydrant and had to locate a second hydrant down the block," the chief said.

He said his firefighters did a "terrific job" in battling the blaze, with two off-duty shifts called in staying until about midnight.

Edwards said the six children were at their grandparents' home at the time of the fire, and Skinner and Hepner were walking several blocks away, possibly near Stewart's on South Main Street around the time the fire broke out.

Though he doesn't know the cause of the blaze yet, he said it is believed it began in the rear area of the first floor.

"I didn't find any working smoke detectors throughout the building," Edwards said.

Michael Anich can be reached by e-mail at



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