Two Houses Burn in Laurens, Morris


Houses Burn In

Morris, Laurens

Mount Upton Fire Department Capt. Jacob Barnes and Firefighter Tyler Dexheimer hose down the side of the home of Brian Madden, a retired SUNY Oneonta professor this afternoon at 287 West Hill Road, Morris. (James Cummings/

By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to

MORRIS – Brian Madden described the sound “like a firecracker.”

“I was spraying insulation into a hole in the wall where vermin were getting in,” said Madden, a retired SUNY Oneonta professor. “Apparently fumes of spray went under the furnace and caused a small explosion. Flames shot out and I called 911. The woman told me to get out immediately.”

The Morris fire department was dispatched just after noon to Madden’s 287 West Hill Road home. “The fire was coming through the roof upon Fire Department arrival,” said Victor Jones, assistant emergency service coordinator for Otsego County.

Firefighters initially considered an interior approach to the fire, but quickly realized that the exact location of the flames was hard to pin down.

“It’s a very well-built house which makes it difficult to get to where the fire is,” said Jones.

Specifically, the roof proved challenging due to its materials.

“Most houses have sheetrock and you can pull that down easily,”  said Chris Oralls, Assistant Chief of the Gilbertsville Fire Department. “This is a tongue and groove pine roof. It has plywood underneath and shingles on top. Normally you do interior operations but we weren’t able to do that because the fire is contained within the walls and ceilings. We sawed through the roof to create ventilation, but it started sagging so we decided to do exterior operations.”

The firefighters worked together to douse the flames with water until the conditions were better for an interior approach.

“I pulled the roof apart to get insulation down and put it out,” said Mark Johnson, Captain of the Pittsfield Fire Department, as he worked his way through the living room. “Then I hosed the bottom of the roof shingles so the water would shoot back down and deflect onto the floor.”

Mutual aid was provided by from Gilbertsville, West Laurens, Laurens, Mt. Vision, South New Berlin, New Berlin, Pittsfield, and Mt. Upton. West Oneonta and Hartwick were on standby.

This chimney, at the West Laurens home of Garrett and Katherine Decker, caught fire just after midnight, forcing the couple and their pets to flee the home.

It was the second fire that West Laurens had been to; just after 12:30 p.m., a clogged chimney caught fire at 959 County Hwy 10 in West Laurens.

“The residents’ chimney caught fire,” said West Laurens firefighter Deb Lawyer. “They had smoke detectors and that’s how they got notified to get help,”

“West Laurens was first on the scene. When we got there, there was serious smoke. We breached the front door and had it out quickly,” she said.

The residents, Garrett and Katherine Decker, as well as their dog and cats made it out safely, but not without distress.

“They tried to take Christmas presents out through the window. I told them to put the presents back. You don’t know what hazardous materials were in the house. Toxic fumes can cover everything,” said Lawyer.

Brooke Dawson, Katherine’s sister-in-law, described the scene on the page for their fundraiser on GoFundMe.

My sister-in-law woke up to the smoke detector going off, opened her bedroom door and saw flames feet away in her kitchen,” she wrote. “Thank GOD they are both ok, the made it out only with the clothes on their backs and slippers on their feet. If the loss of everything isn’t enough, they are expecting their first child in June 2020 and the baby’s crib had just arrived.”

As of Monday, over $23,000 had been raised for the couple.

“My hope is we can bring a little ease and peace to them in such a heartbreaking time,” said Dawson.


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