AuSABLE FORKS — Hundreds of people crowded the four corners in AuSable Forks as fire consumed a building there Tuesday evening.
Firefighters from several local departments were challenged by the number of buildings in close quarters to where the structure at North Main St. and French Village Road burned. Although the building that sustained most of the damaged was unoccupied, some nearby apartments were evacuated and those structures may have also been damaged.
Smoke billowed from between the structures, and flames shot from the destroyed peak of the building.
“It’s pretty bad,” said Melanie LaFontaine of AuSable Forks as she watched the firefighting efforts.
Some residents referred to the section of the hamlet near M&M Diner, an old garage and apartment buildings, as “Little Times Square.”
At about 5:20 p.m., members of the AuSable Fire Department and EMS responded to reports of smoke and flames near the restaurant. Within minutes, calls went out to Keeseville, Peru, Morrisonville, Saranac, Wilmington, Jay, Upper Jay, Willsboro, Lewis and South Plattsburgh fire departments for mutual aid to provide tanker, aerial and pumper-aid assistance.
Clinton County emergency officials and fire investigators were also called to the blaze.
The fire is believed to have started in the rear of a garage attached to the structure where people were working on snowmobiles. The snowmobiles and at least two cars were pushed out of the garage before flames spread from the back of the garage to the attached structure.
No official word was available Tuesday evening as to the cause of the fire.
The M&M diner, which was damaged in the fire, was scheduled to be removed for construction of a Family Dollar store. The Black Brook Town Council approved the plan in last month.
The spectators who ringed the fire trucks stood about 30 deep behind police tape, taking pictures and watching the firefighting effort.
“I’ll tell you what, these guys (firefighters) did a phenomenal job,” said Kathy Williamson of AuSable Forks. “When I rounded the bend on my way home I was like ‘Oh, something’s on fire.’ They did a great job.”
Two firefighters were seen being treated at the scene for breathing difficulty, but neither was transported.
Auxiliary members of the AuSable Fire Department were asked to provide refreshments for firefighters because a sustained firefighting effort was expected.
State Police reported that Main Street was expected to remain closed for several hours.
— Staff Writer Miranda Orson contributed to this report.