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Garage fire destoys classic cars in Rensselaer Falls

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RENSSELAER FALLS - A Sunday morning fire that destroyed a garage containing four classic cars and a van may have been caused by a battery that had been installed the day before in a 2005 BMW, according to a St. Lawrence County fire investigator.

The 2,500-square foot garage owned by Kyle D. “Fireball” Hartman at 2 Birch St. was not insured, according to W. Joseph Lacks, a county fire investigator who was called to the scene by firefighters.

The blaze was reported at about 1:40 a.m., with Rensselaer Falls and Heuvelton firefighters responding.

“It was a big fire,” Mr. Lacks said. “There was a big fuel load, two barrels of oil and cut wood.”

Although the cause of the blaze is “undetermined,” Mr. Lacks said he could not rule out the possibility that it was caused by a new battery installed into the BMW on Saturday. He said the investigation is complete.

“The car was in the area of the fire’s origin. It was one of the things we could not rule out,” Mr. Lacks said.

Mr. Hartman said he and his wife, Sally W., were at their camp in Russell when the blaze broke out. The garage is about a block and half from their Front Street home.

“It’s a real shame,” he said. “Two of the cars were priceless. They were my dad’s.”

The destroyed vehicles included a 1957 convertible and a 1937 English Austin. Mrs. Hartman’s pottery equipment, including five kilns, were also damaged.

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