LAKE GEORGE - A two-story building housing three Canada Street businesses was heavily damaged by fire Aug. 19 - and while about 75 firefighters worked to control the smoldering blaze, a block of the busy village thoroughfare was shut down during the height of the summer tourist season.
Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the firefighters work to quell the blaze. The building that burned houses Sweet N' Sweeter to the south, a tattoo shop, and Sandy Feet to the north.
Bystanders said one of the stores was open at the time of the fire, and customers exited when the fire broke out. Some said the fire spread from the rear of Sweet N' Sweeter, 149 Canada St.
Later, the owner of Sweet N' Sweeter Sam Irwin told Lake George Fire Chief Jim Barber an employee of his had dumped hot popcorn kernels into a trash receptacle, Barber said. On Aug. 24, Barber said the Warren County fire investigators had determined the fire had indeed begun in the kitchen trash container, and then to the walls and ceiling, and into the second story.
The smoldering blaze created thick smoke that engulfed the busy main street of the village, prompting authorities to close off the block to traffic from Mayard Center on the north to McGillis Street on the south, while taping off a section of the street to keep pedestrians back for more than an hour due to the heavy smoke.
Shortly after midnight, Warren County Fire Coordinator Brian LaFlure said there was extensive fire, smoke and water damage to all three businesses.
Lake George Fire Co. Auxiliary members passed out bottles of water to those emerging from the smoke-filled building, many wearing oxygen tanks and masks.
Two tower trucks were used to battle the blaze, with firefighters spraying water from atop a ladder platform and a hydraulic boom.
Working at the scene were volunteers from Lake George, North Queensbury, South Queensbury, Queensbury Central, Bay Ridge, Warrensburg, and Bolton. Emergency medical personnel from Lake George, Bay Ridge, West Glens Falls and North Queensbury also responded.
On Aug. 20, the owner of the building, Nicholas Thomas, told the media he'd be repairing the building as soon as possible so the stores could reopen.
Barber said the fire presented a lot of obstacles, including items stored in stairways and hallways that made it difficult for firefighters to move through the building. Also, windows had been boarded over and had siding atop them, which was problematic along with the various nooks and crannies and layers of building materials due to multiple remodeling jobs, he said.
"It was a recipe for disaster," Barber said.
However, the firefighters were able to contain the fire so buildings that were immediately adjacent - with only a few feet of clearance - suffered no damage, he said.
One of the fortunate factors, Barber said, was a good number of firefighters were on duty only a block away in Shepard Park at the fire department's annual Family Festival & Crafts Fair, so they responded to the fire alert within mere seconds.
However, the thousands of spectators cramming the village for the weekly fireworks show meant the fire trucks had to move through congested traffic to set up their apparatus. About a dozen fire and emergency vehicles were on duty at the scene to fight the blaze.
"It was a good 'save' despite the obstacles," Barber said.