This is what’s left of Bruce and Amy Cleveland’s house in Bakers Mills.
It’s fitting that the J&J Foxx Lair Tavern hold a fundraiser for Bruce and Amy Cleveland, who lost their home to a fire Saturday, Oct. 27. J&J’s bar manager, Joelene Slater, was the one who found the fire and called 911.
Slater had just closed the tavern at 1:30 in the morning and was driving down the road when two deer ran in front of her vehicle near the church. She slowed down and watched them.
“I say God sent these two deer out to tell me to look to my left, and watched them go across the road, and when I did I see this glow on Edwards Hill,” Slater said. “So I drove up there, and their car was parked out front but there was no one around, so I called 911.”
Warren County Emergency Services received the call at 1:37 a.m., according to Warren County EMS Director/Fire Coordinator Brian LaFlure. Slater was at the Cleveland’s 95 Edwards Hill Road home in Bakers Mills doing what she could to help the Cleveland’s before firefighters arrived.
“Then I tried to scream, blew my horn, my God, it was awful,” Slater said. “I tried to wake them up, not knowing if they were home or not. You don’t know if somebody’s home or not. So then I found out later that they were OK, and I was so glad.”
Bruce had apparently taken Amy to the Glens Falls Hospital for an emergency about an hour before the fire, so they were not home. But there was severe damage to the house.
“They lost everything,” Slater said. “It was a total loss on the house. It even singed the paint and melted the lights on his truck that was parked out front. That’s how hot it was.”
All fire companies in the town of Johnsburg responded to the fire, as did Johnsburg EMS, according to LaFlure. The Chestertown and Potterville fire departments were standing by.
Slater said she was already working on the idea for a fundraiser when she received a phone call from Joe Bibby, of Avalanche, who said he’d like to donate the time of his band for a fundraising event.
“We kind of were doing the same idea at the same time, and he called the day after the fire,” Slater said.
Now the fundraiser includes several bands, including Avalanche and the Steven L. Smith Band, plus an auction, raffle drawings and food. The benefit will start at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 at the J&J Foxx Lair Tavern, Route 8, Bakers Mills.
“We welcome all the help we can get from the local businesses and individuals,” Slater said. “We want to do as much as we can for them.”
Anyone who wants to bring a food donation is welcome to bring finger foods. Plus, food donations are being coordinated by Nancy Heckett at the Wevertown Country Store. People wishing to donate food should call her at 251-5555.
Donations for the auction and raffles are also needed. People wishing to give these items should call Joelene Slater at 251-0133.
There is a culture of giving in tiny hamlet of Bakers Mills. Neighbors look out for one another. And the J&J Foxx Lair Tavern is usually at the center of fundraisers such as this. Most recently, the bar hosted the annual Halloween Bash benefit for the North Country Hardship Fund.
“We do a lot of benefits,” she said. “I’d have one every week if people needed it. People in this town are so wonderful to help.”
Andrew Millington lives just up the road from the Clevelands and is dating their daughter, Cassandra.
During the night of the fire, Bruce and Amy had left Millington's home to return to their own. Not knowing they had left for the Glens Falls Hospital, Millington ran over to their house during the fire, in his boxers, when he saw a fire truck and briefly entered the house looking for the couple before being pulled back outside and repelled by the heat and smoke. Millington said the fire was caused by a mouse chewing through some electrical wiring, although the cause was not verified by Warren County EMS. The fire only lasted for about 45 minutes, he said, but it was intense and destructive.
No people or pets were injured in the fire; Millington said the pets made it out of the house on their own. The Clevelands, who were at the hospital, didn't know anything about the fire until authorities notified them around 6 a.m.
(Correspondent Philip Sherotov contributed to this story.)