By HOWARD BALABAN
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — KNOWLESVILLE — No one was hurt when a two-alarm fire severely damaged most of a home in the hamlet of Knowlesville on Wednesday afternoon.
The house at 12632 Presbyterian Street, owned by Dick Hess, sat empty in the early part of the afternoon. His neighbor, Leo Wodrich, said he noticed some smoke coming from the garage of Hess’s place while he mowed his lawn across the street.
“I thought something was burning on the other side of the garage,” Wodrich said. He then noticed the smoke was coming from the garage.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god!’ and told my wife to call 911,” he said.
Betty Wodrich did just that and at 2:52 p.m. the Town of Ridgeway Fire Company got the call.
Fire Chief Don Marchner said the first truck from the town arrived within three minutes of the call and its crew reported heavy smoke. The Medina Fire Department and the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company also responded to the initial call.
Marchner said the firefighters thought they defeated the fire early.
“When we got there we saw it was in the garage at the rear of the house,” he recalled. “We got access to the garage area and we thought we had it put down, but prior to our arrival it evidently had worked its way up the walls, through the rafters and into the main part of the house and just expanded from there.”
Marchner said he called for the second alarm relatively quickly, and mainly for extra manpower because of heat of the blaze and the warm weather outside can prove to be an issue for a firefighter in full gear.
The second alarm brought in fire companies from Lyndonville, Shelby, Albion, and Barre. The Red Cross was also called. Marchner said the combined firefighting forces finally put out the fire around 6 p.m. By that time, the house had suffered major water, smoke and fire damage.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Betty Wodrich. “It’s a shame because it was a beautiful house.”
The Orleans County Fire Investigation Team pointed to the lawnmower in Hess’s garage as the cause of the fire, Marchner noted.
“He mowed his lawn, drove his mower into his garage, closed the door, and then left,” he said. Marchner suggested the heat in the garage caused something on the lawnmower to ignite.
After the fire, Marchner said correctional officers from Wyoming County arrived with a crew of inmates to help wash and roll the hoses and re-bed the trucks.
Marchner added no injuries were reported among the firefighters, although one Medina firefighter was taken to Medina Memorial Hospital where he was treated and released.