PERU — Flames were fast engulfing the home on Dashnaw Road early Thursday morning as passers-by and neighbors looked in windows, trying to see if anyone was inside.
“But the smoke was too bad,” said Kari Prescott, who lives on the next road over.
The doors were locked, she said, and as she peered through the glass, she saw flames swallowing up a room on the other side.
“It happened so quickly,” she said. “A matter of seconds, and (the fire) was up — bright, bright flames.”
Michael Barber and his family weren’t home, but the house was decimated by the blaze.
“It was fully involved when we arrived,” Peru Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian Westover said.
His concern, too, was possible occupants, and took action to make sure no one was inside.
As firefighters got the front door open, said Prescott, “a cat bolts out.”
SKY GLOWED ORANGE
The one-story wood-frame structure stood on the west side of the road between Lapham Mills Road and Route 22, not far from Glenwood Grocery.
Prescott was on her way home from a shopping trip in Burlington when, from Route 22, she saw the night sky glowing orange.
The entire roof was aflame, and she rushed home to call 911.
“My cellphone wasn’t charged; the Glenwood Plaza (nearby) wasn’t open.”
Then she and her husband, Jeff, a former member of the Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Department, hurried back to see how they could help.
Westover said water was an issue for the initial attack, but the Clinton County Tanker Task Force soon rolled in with plenty to spare.
A firefighter who injured a wrist was taken for treatment to CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh; she was later released, the chief said.
The detached two-car garage stood not far from the house, but firefighters managed to save it.
The fire’s cause was still under investigation Thursday afternoon.
“We believe it started in the kitchen,” he said.
Assisting Peru Volunteer Fire Department at the conflagration were fire companies from South Plattsburgh, AuSable Forks, Keeseville, Morrisonville, Plattsburgh District 3 and Cumberland Head. Cadyville Fire Department stood by at the Peru station but was also called to the property.
Westover hadn’t witnessed the feline fleeing the flames but knew some kind of pet had been saved.
A small rekindle drew fire crews back to the property at about 8:20 a.m. for about 35 minutes. By then, the chief said, the Barbers had arrived.
“(And) there was a cat on the front steps,” he said.
Later, to the delight of the Barbers’ twin daughters, the family found all eight of their cats were safe.
The family had overnighted at a camp Thursday.
The Fire Department was called back a second time at about 12:30 p.m.
Firefighters entered the home once again, maneuvering past badly burned furniture and other household items.
Outside, the fire’s devastation was evident, as more charred pieces of the building and its contents lay in the driveway and atop badly burned stairs leading to a side entrance to the home.
A pink-and-white child’s bicycle was parked outside the garage near an overturned, burned basketball hoop in the driveway, just across from other playground equipment.
Mrs. Prescott hoped to collect clothing and items for the family if she could get information on their needs.
It was sadly ironic, she said, that she would come upon the dead-of-night fire when she did.
In Burlington, she was shopping for her friends Megan Cook and Tim Parsons, whose home on Ore Bed Road was destroyed by fire in July.
A garage sale held at the Prescott home raised more than $2,500 in two days for that family, and she’s planning another one for them soon.
“There are two children, I know, that get on the bus over there (near the Dashnaw Road home),” she said, thinking they might have lived in the house that burned Thursday.
“I will gather stuff and keep it in mind for that family.”
The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted with immediate emergency aid to the family, according to a press release.
Members of the Disaster Action Team provided them with comfort kits, financial assistance for food and clothing immediately following the fire.
— Staff Writer Miranda Orso contributed to this story.