A house on County Route 152 in Henderson is a total loss after it caught fire Monday evening. Ben Muir/Watertown Daily Times

HENDERSON — Crews spent nearly seven hours Monday night working a County Route 152 house fire that the chief called the toughest fire he’s managed since filling the role nearly four years ago.

Everything was freezing instantly. The property surrounding 8637 County Route 152 became an ice rink after an estimated 100,000 gallons of water was dumped on the engulfed house. Equipment on the fire trucks froze, forcing firefighters to fill tanks with garden hoses as hooking up to a hydrant wasn’t an option.

The house on fire was something of a fortress made of stone, making the flames hard to reach, and through the night Henderson Fire Chief Derek Stoner was responsible for the safety of his crews and the crews from neighboring departments.

The Henderson department was dispatched to the house at around 8:23 p.m. When they got there, heavy flames could be seen flowing from the back of the house. The homeowner — who uses it as a summer home and wasn’t there when the fire ignited — had built wooden walls on the inside, separated from the stone exterior by a foot of instillation.

“Basically, you’re trying to fight a fire that’s inside of a wood stove,” Mr. Stoner said. “It’s like a fire pit.”

There were hardly any ways to get inside the building to fight the flames from the interior. And Mr. Stoner didn’t want to put his crew at risk, so they dumped water from the outside. Possibly the only benefit of a fire igniting at that location is there were not living things inside.

He’s thinking about the taxpayer as well. The temperature outside means less when Mr. Stoner thinks about having to explain to a homeowner why his fire department didn’t respond to their burning home. So they did, and even with all the gear, firefighters are still at risk when they get wet in freezing temperatures, which made the mutual aid from other departments so important. It gave them the manpower to circulate firefighters in and out of the cold. Food and coffee were brought in. It made it so fire chiefs from other departments were on the scene, offering suggestions to Mr. Stoner, who, technically, is responsible for every department that responds.

“All the help from the mutual aid departments was so great,” Mr. Stoner said. “We all work really well together.”

No firefighters were injured during the initial response or when Henderson was called back Tuesday morning when the fire rekindled. The cause is still under investigation, Mr. Stoner said, though they believe it originated in the back of the house where two freezers were still activated.

Assisting Henderson at the scene included departments from Adams, Adams Center, Belleville, Ellisburg, Sackets Harbor, Smithville and Lorraine.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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