BATAVIA — A preliminary investigation of the fire that destroyed a house Monday morning at 8920 Batavia Stafford Townline Rd. centered on a furnace, county Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger said.
Town of Batavia Fire Chief Chris Strathearn said he saw a large column of smoke in the air.
“When I arrived, there was heavy fire coming from the front of the structure. After doing a walk-around, there was heavy fire coming from the rear of the structure, as well,” he said.
As soon as firefighters were dispatched, there was a report that someone was either inside or had gone back inside the house.
“One of the assistants requested an engine out of the city for assistance and then a second alarm was generated after that,” he said. “When I arrived, there was an assistant chief from Stafford who had confirmed that everybody was out. Nobody was inside at that point.”
There are reportedly two people living there, Strathearn said. Yaeger said that was unconfirmed.
“There was one resident home at the time,” Yaeger said one person was at home or possibly back in a shop behind the home where the employees are. The business is not attached to the home.
“Our preliminary investigation is that the homeowner had turned on their furnace. It’s propane-fueled, forced hot air,” he said. “She had left to go and give assignments to her crews for the business that they run here. When she came back, she had smelled something funny, something hot. One of her employees saw smoke exiting from the garage. They entered the garage, opened the door into the house and there was heavy, black smoke in the house itself.”
Based on the investigation so far, fire officials are looking at the furnace, which may have had a malfunction.
“They had a water problem here in the basement a couple of weeks ago, so that may have attributed to the malfunction of the furnace …We’re going to continue with that investigation, but we’ve to bring in some heavy equipment and make the structure safe before we can start getting into the building to further investigate.” Regarding whether there was an explosion at the scene, Yaeger said that is possible.
“Many of the homes, there’s a lot of compressed cylinders … There could be something in the garage, a tire or something of that nature,” he said. “There was a propane tank on the outside of the building that was secured. The fire department cooled that down, so there was no threat to anyone else from the propane tank.”
There were two dogs in the house, Strathearn said, and an employee of the shop was believed to have gotten them out. No injuries were reported.
The following fire departments were dispatched: town of Batavia, city of Batavia, Le Roy, Stafford, Mercy EMS, a FAST team from Alexander and departments standing by at town Fire Department stations 1 and 2.