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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, February 5, 2009

Snowstorm impedes firefighting on Slade Hill Road

By Zach Simeone

WESTERLO — A fire in town destroyed the home of a family and its tenant last week.

The blaze began at about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 144 Slade Hill Road, under a trailer owned by the Ferguson family.

“The investigator said the fire turned out to be electrical in origin, resulting from a faulty water heater,” said Westerlo Fire Chief Don Filkins. “It had started under the structure, and had been burning for some time,” he said.

It took about 45 minutes to put out the fire, Filkins said. About four hours elapsed between dispatch and the firefighters’ return to the station, he said.

Only tenant Herbert Ochs was home at the time of the fire. He woke to a trailer full of smoke, said Filkins. Ochs crawled his way out, realized how cold it was, then crawled back into the home to put on more clothes, and crawled back out, Filkins said.

“We were pretty close to having a rescue situation,” Filkins said. “Luckily, he just had light smoke inhalation.”

The Westerlo firefighters were assisted by Berne’s and Rensselaerville’s fire departments, along with the Westerlo Rescue Squad, and Helderberg Ambulance.

“The biggest drawback was the snow that was coming down off the bat, which kind of slowed the response of everybody,” Filkins said. “The first man on the scene was my deputy chief, Eric Dutton. The wind was blowing the fire right through the place pretty quick by the time we got there,” he said.

This was the first home fire in Westerlo in at least two years, Filkins said, though the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company had assisted with fires in surrounding towns.

“The one time we had a fire like this, it happened to be snowing, so we really had to be on our A-game,” Filkins concluded. “But there were no injuries to any fire personnel; everyone did very well.”

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