HOUNSFIELD — An abandoned motel is suspected to have been purposely set on fire for the third time in roughly a month, coming after firefighters battled the fully-engulfed building for around four hours early Friday morning.

At around 1:20 a.m., fire departments from Brownville, Sackets Harbor and Watertown responded to the abandoned Harbor Motel at the corner of Route 3 and Adams Road in the town of Hounsfield. This marks the third response to the location since Oct. 3. The first two were minor fires contained to the exterior or in one room, and both were extinguished quickly.

But Friday morning was different. By the time crews got there, the eight-room, overgrown building was 75 percent engulfed, said Drew Heise, Brownville fire’s assistant chief and the commanding officer of the scene Friday morning.

“There was a larger glow in the sky than usual,” Mr. Heise said.

After minor issues, firefighters connected to water and was spraying the building within 15 minutes after they arrived on the scene. Mr. Heise said he called for assistance from Henderson and Smithsville fire departments.

He said firefighters were on the defense, meaning they didn’t enter the building all night, instead spraying from outside. He said the fire, which originated in the rear of the building, was controlled after 40 minutes.

Mr. Heise said the first two fires at the motel were determined to be set purposely, and Friday morning’s is suspected to be the same, pending an investigation. No firefighters were injured, but he said he’s constantly worried about what crews will find every time they respond.

“It’s always in the middle of the night,” he said. “Your mind wanders. It goes to a million places when you’re on your way there. I’m worried about my guys and their safety. Maybe someone is still there and wanting to do harm to firefighters. Do they have a gun? Do they have a knife? Stuff like that is a constant worry. As far as resources, if someone got hurt for a bullcrap reason, it would be very frustrating.”

Crews cleared the scene at around 5:20 a.m. but have already been back to fight rekindled flames. State police are investigating, along with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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