LOWVILLE — The investigation into a blaze in the village at 7525 S. State St. that killed two people and injured one overnight Saturday into Sunday continues.
The Lowville Fire Department arrived on the scene about ten minutes before midnight on Saturday to find a man standing on the front porch roof and flames shooting out of windows.
According to State Police spokesperson Jack Keller, the man smashed an upstairs window of the four-apartment building in order to escape. Firefighters raised a ladder to the roof and helped the man climb down to safety.
He was taken to Lewis County General Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor burns, Trooper Keller said.
Two other people known to be in the building were reported as “unaccounted for” throughout the night, however, their bodies were later found in an upstairs bedroom in the front of the house.
The identities of the two deceased aren’t likely to be released until early this week, Trooper Keller said.
Billowing smoke was visible in the cold night sky as firefighters inundated the structure with water to fight the fire.
After battling flare-ups erupting in small hidden spaces created when the large old home was converted into a multi-unit, fire crews were able to completely contain the blaze and leave the scene by about 8 a.m. Sunday morning, when state and county investigators began looking into the blaze’s cause.
Lowville Police Chief Randy L. Roggie said while three of the apartments are currently rented, the total number of people in the building could not yet be released. Mr. Keller said it is not clear if the deceased or the injured man are residents or were visiting friends.
The American Red Cross issued a statement saying they had given financial assistance to a family of four adults and two children, ages 3 and 4, for shelter, food and clothing.
One of the adults will be eligible for veterans’ services “in the coming days.”
State Trooper Hall maneuvered a drone around the devastated, but still standing, structure to gather information for the investigation and ensuing report in the morning’s bitter cold, saying “it’s a good tool to have” for gathering data when they are available.
On Sunday afternoon, the State Police Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team’s investigation into the fire’s cause continued into Monday, although South State Street was opened once again.
The identities of the victims in the fire won’t be released until the autopsies have been completed and the families have been contacted, Chief Roggie said, which is anticipated to be by Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.
Fire departments from New Bremen, Martinsburg and Castorland assisted at the scene along with the Lewis County Origin and Cause team, the Sheriff’s office, State Police and the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control fire investigators.
National Grid, the American Red Cross, the village Department of Works and the state Department of Transportation also assisted at the scene.
The property owners, Steven and Christine Ahrendt of Wantage, N.J,, could not be reached for comment.