Fire levels home family escapes

NEW SCOTLAND — Soot on snow surrounds the footprint of a house on New Salem South Road since a fire broke out near its wood stove just after midnight on Monday.

Firefighters arrived before 1 a.m. to find the second floor engulfed in flame, with nearly 40-mile-an-hour winds pushing the flames from one side of the house to the other.  Flames were pouring out of the upstairs windows, New Salem Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Craig Shufelt said this week.

Trucks and equipment had trouble getting to the house, which was set back from the road on a long dirt driveway, during the first snowstorm of the season.  Equipment can freeze in the cold if the water isn’t kept moving.

“Everything was against us that night — the weather, the wind… the way the house was built,” Shufelt said.  About 50 firefighters from eight companies fought the blaze until 9:00 in the morning, he said.

The family, two parents and their teenage daughter, got out of the house with their dog, Shufelt said.  The Red Cross provided them with emergency food and clothing the following day, said Joslyn McArdle, regional communications manager for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York.  The organization has responded to 21 fires this month, according to a release, which has cost 34 percent more than December 2009 and three times more than December 2008.

Nothing is left of the house, and two cars parked nearby are gray husks.

“They lost everything,” Shufelt said.

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