A Monday fire left seven people looking for a place to stay and residents rallying around them.
Local firefighters were called out at 9:55 a.m. on June 22 to respond to a fire at 177 N. Williams St.
“It was a working fire on arrival,” said Whitehall Fire Chief Bryan Brooks. “The ladder truck was the first one on the scene and we had a very aggressive initial attack by both companies.”
“Two rooms were burning at the same time when we got there,” said Skenesborough Fire Capt. Jim Martell. “We did an interior attack on both the kitchen and the laundry area.”
The home was occupied by Tabatha Tourville and Mark Bessette, along with five children ranging in age from 1 month to 14 years.
According to the investigation, Tourville stated that she had heard a loud sound from the laundry room area and found the room in flames. Tourville was able to escape the house along with the children who were home at the time.
“Two of the kids were at school at the time,” said Whitehall Village Police Chief Matthew Dickinson. “They were all able to get out fine.”
However, the family was not able to recover a pair of puppies.
“I saw them run out and I knew that they had their two dogs,” said Kevin McDonald, the next door neighbor and senior at Whitehall Central School. “I ran up to the door to see if I could see the puppies, but at that point the smoke was too thick and there was no way anyone was getting in their without an air pack.”
Firefighters did enter the house as soon as they arrived on-scene and were able to contain the fire to the area of the kitchen and laundry.
“It was a great set-up and knockdown of the fire,” said Brooks. “We were able to keep the fire local to that corner of the house. We were able to salvage the living room area with minimal water damage and get some of their belongings out and back to the homeowners.”
Washington County Fire Investigator Craig Bascue said that the fire started at the electrical outlet that provided power to the dryer.
“It was nothing that they did wrong,” said Bascue. “There was a short in the electrical supply to the dryer where the cord plugged into the outlet. It’s just a freak accident.”
Bessette told investigators that the family does not have homeowner’s insurance after losing his job in Vermont.
The family is staying with friends for the time being.
Members of the Skenesborough Emergency Squad also responded to the scene to assist.
Dickinson said that the American Red Cross had shown up to assist the victims promptly.
“They were here at about quarter-of-two,” Dickinson said. “They are getting them set up and getting an account at the bank set up for them.”
The Whitehall Girl Scouts Troop 3306, which Tourville helps with, will be holding a fundraising drive throughout the town with cans set up at local businesses and a bank account being set up at Community Bank onMain Street
There will also be a benefit dinner to help the family on Tuesday, June 30, from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Whitehall Elks Lodge. It will be a spaghetti and meatball dinner with takeouts available. The cost will be $7. For more information, call the lodge at 499-1491. Mothers of the Girl Scouts will be waitressing at the dinner, and there will also be a 50/50 raffle.