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Tragic Fire Has
A Silver Lining

By Fred Stabbert III
MONTICELLO — October 9, 2001 – A missed opportunity actually turned into a stroke of good fortune for Mike Bernstein.
A fledgling politician who is making his first bid for public office, Bernstein needed to borrow a friend’s truck to put up his election signs last week.
But because his dog is dying, Bernstein spent Tuesday afternoon comforting his dog instead of working the campaign trail.
“I was going to borrow a friend’s truck in the afternoon but he had to go to work, so I borrowed another friend’s truck and got started after dinner,” Bernstein said.
After putting up three signs in Rock Hill, Bernstein returned to his Hammond St. home close to midnight to assemble one more sign and take it up to Route 42 and put up.
“I really wanted to get four signs up that day,” the Thompson council candidate said. “On my way home from Rock Hill, I noticed that the fog was starting to drift in.
“Then, when I pulled out of my driveway at one in the morning, I noticed that the fog was already starting to drift up my street,” Bernstein recalled. “But suddenly I realized it wasn’t fog, but smoke from a house fire.”
Bernstein frantically turned his car around and drove down the street, not knowing what he would find.
“I really couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but my 32 years of firefighting experience told me it was serious,” Bernstein, who is president of the Monticello Fire Dept., said. “I soon realized it was my mother’s house.”
Bernstein quickly jumped out of his car and raced up to the front door of 26 Hammond St., where he found his mother, Hannah, lying in the house, near the front door.
“I got her outside and away from the house,” Bernstein recalled. “And told her I was going for help.”
Bernstein raced around the corner to the firehouse, where he ran inside and yelled to Carl Houman “to get up, we have a fire at 26 Hammond” (Carl is a paid fireman who sleeps at the firehouse when he is on duty.)
With Bernstein in one truck and Carl in the other, the fire department was soon on the scene to fight the blaze.
“It took two-and-a-half hours to fight the stubborn blaze,” Bernstein said. “I can’t thank the firemen enough for all they did. We really are all brothers.”
Bernstein said he never would have been awake so late if it weren’t for his campaigning.
Thankfully, his mother is OK, and although her house suffered considerable damage, it is fixable.
Later in the week, Bernstein’s dog died, but he did take solace in knowing that his mother would be fine.
“Politics aren’t so bad after all,” he said.

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