Space heater fire destroys Penn Yan home, damages another

John Christensen
The home of Jim Brown at 110 Johnson Ave., Penn Yan was destroyed by fire just after 7:00 a.m. Dec. 28.

Fire destroys Penn Yan home, damages another

A space heater on a back porch has been blamed for the Dec. 28 fire that completely destroyed the home of Jim Brown at 110 Johnson Ave. in Penn Yan. Brown discovered the fire just after 7:00 a.m. when he went to the back door and it exploded in on him. "I'm lucky it didn't knock me out. The fire just tore through the house after that," Brown said in a telephone interview. He quickly alerted his son Patrick and a friend, Dale Eaves, who also resides there. They escaped without injury, but the house is a total loss.

High winds were the greatest obstacle in fighting the fire that quickly spread to the neighboring home of John Bacher at 112 Johnson Ave., which suffered severe damage to the kitchen, a sunroom and a bedroom, and with smoke and water damage as well. Bacher feels fortunate that he, his son Ryan, and their dog escaped without harm. Miraculously, two parrots that were still in the house also survived unscathed.

Brown said the space heater that caused the conflagration was only used in the coldest weather, and was there to keep his daughter's dog warm while it was staying with him. An unidentified but quick-thinking neighbor broke through a stockade fence and rescued the dog, which suffered only minor burns.

Penn Yan Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Rick Simpson said that due to the severity of both fires and the high winds that morning, extra lines were run from the larger water main on North Ave. and pumper trucks were employed to battle the blaze. "Everyone did a great job," he added. PYVFD Incident Commander Mike Clancy praised the cooperation of the fire departments that provided mutual aid; Bellona, Benton, Branchport-Keuka Park, and Dresden all provided personnel and equipment aid. "We wouldn't have been successful without them," said Clancy. Himrod, Hall, and West Lake Road provided standby coverage. Oaks Corners sent down their Firefighter Rehabilitation Unit.

The American Red Cross was also on the scene and provided the family with food, clothing, and other assorted necessities. Monetary contributions for the Brown and Bacher families can be made in their names to the

American Red Cross

121 East Elm St.

Penn Yan, NY 14527

or by contacting Carol Oswald at 315-536-6841.

Brown, a long-time custodian at Penn Yan Academy who retired in 2003, is staying with his son Preston near Guayanoga, while his son and Eaves are staying with friends. The Red Cross put Bacher and his son up for the night at the Best Western Hotel. Brown's residence is insured, but has yet to hear from the company. He hopes to rebuild on the same site. Despite losing his home of more than 30 years, all his possessions and mementos of his late wife, Brown remains grateful. "We were lucky, that's all I can say."

High winds whipped the fire across the drive to 112 Johnson Ave., causing heavy damage to three rooms.