Middlesex Town Highway barn, equipment damaged by fire

Melody Burri
One of the trucks that was heavily damaged in the Friday night blaze at the Middlesex highway barn.

A late-night fire at the Middlesex town highway barn Friday destroyed one dump truck and heavily damaged two others, along with the barn itself, authorities said.

"Anytime you have a fire like that, it's devastating to a town," said Middlesex Fire Department Second Assistant Fire Chief David Harrington.

Firefighters from 10 area departments fought the blaze in freezing temperatures or provided backup.

At about 9:25 p.m. on Friday, Middlesex firefighters responded to an automatic fire alarm at the highway barn at 1240 Mill St., at the corner of Mill and Adams in the hamlet.

"Upon arrival, I found a heavy smoke condition coming from the overhead doors of the shop area of the building," said Harrington. "A working fire was confirmed inside the shop."

A second alarm went out calling Middlesex, Rushville and Potter fire departments to the scene. Penn Yan was called for their ladder truck, and Benton for a firefighter assist and search team.

"In Yates county, we always activate a FAST team (when multiple departments are involved.) Their job is solely to stand by and assist as a safety team in case a firefighter becomes trapped, disoriented, injured or has a low air emergency," said Harrington. "One of our main concerns with this fire was that because of the age of the building, we were concerned about roof collapse. Also the weather."

A third alarm was requested for manpower from Branchport/Keuka Park and Crystal Beach, with station fill-ins from Gorham, Naples and Hammondsport.

"One highway truck was completely destroyed, and two more sustained severe heat and smoke damaged." Harrington said. "The building roof structure of the shop area was heavily damaged by fire and smoke. We were able to save most of the shop equipment and the entire unheated northern storage area."

The weather at the time of the fire was about 10 or 11 degrees, Harrington said. By the time emergency crews cleared the scene at 2 a.m., temperatures had dropped to 2 degrees.

Typically Middlesex uses four trucks to keep roads clear during the winter months. Only one of the four survived the fire unscathed, creating a challenge for the remainder of the cold weather season.

"In talking with (the highway department) last night," Harrington said, "I believe their plan at this point is to borrow equipment from surrounding jurisdictions."

Middlesex Highway Superintendent Thomas Reifsteck, Fire Chief Jason Bassett, and Town Supervisor Robert Multer were unavailable Saturday for comment.

Town officials met with insurance adjusters Saturday, and town highway employees spent the morning trying to make the undamaged part of the building inhabitable.

Fire and smoke damage was also sustained by the southern portion of the highway barns.

Also assisting at the scene were Yates County Sheriff's deputies and Middlesex Ambulance. There were no injuries reported. The case was turned over to the Yates County Fire Investigation Team.

Harrington would not comment on the exact cause of the fire, because it's still under investigation. He did, however, say at this point he believes there's no evidence that points to foul play.