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Former school SRF suffers minimal damage in fire

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ST. REGIS FALLS - Approximately 35 firefighters from seven different local departments responded to a report of a structure fire at the old St. Regis Falls Central School on Wednesday night that left a portion of the interior with smoke and heat damage, St. Regis Falls Fire Chief Wilbur Bailey said Thursday.

Mr. Bailey said he was one of the first one on the scene, responding to a call that incorrectly reported a house burning near the old school.

“There was a glow and flames from the rear on the second floor. There was a lot of heat and smoke,” he said, adding that the fire was in the old superintendent and business office. “You had to have an air pack because of the toxic smoke.”

He said whomever lit the fire burned mattresses and various papers that are in the building.

Mr. Bailey said he immediately called in mutual aid from Brasher-Winthrop, Malone Callfiremen and Saranac Lake for tower trucks, but later dismissed all but Malone. Also responding to mutual aid calls were Dickinson, Moira and Brushton.

“We had the fire under control in a few minutes,” Mr. Bailey said, adding that firefighters only used about 300 or 400 gallons of water.

He said the main challenge to getting the blaze under control was its location; they could only get at it with an aerial truck from the south side of the building.

Although most of the building’s windows are smashed in, Mr. Bailey said they had to use a ventilation device because of intense lingering heat and think persistent smoke.

The fire was investigated by the Franklin County Cause and Origin Team, who will pass their findings on to state police, according to Mr. Bailey.

“People don’t realize that you light these fires and people are coming from every corner of the county with millions of dollars worth of equipment because they want to be stupid,” Mr. Bailey said, adding his department has responded to four or five previous calls at the old school since it closed. “We’ll be back there, no doubt. I wish they’d just tear the thing down.”

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