By Ted Waddell
SWAN LAKE December 11, 2001 Local volunteer firefighters had a busy day in the Swan Lake Fire District on Thursday. At 11:58 a.m., the first of two working structure fires in the district broke out at a residence along Lee Cole Road.
Oscar Neptune, the only person in the house at the time the fire started, said the firefighters really responded well.
As the fire ravaged his home, Neptune was left stranded on the front lawn in his stocking feet, until someone loaned him a pair of boots.
Fire departments responding to the scene included Swan Lake and White Sulphur Springs. Liberty was on stand-by at the Swan Lake firehouse.
The Bethel Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to the scene. The Sullivan County Sheriffs Department also responded. Approximately 20-25 local volunteer firefighters battled the blaze.
Firefighters Mike Huggler of Liberty and Joe Decker of White Sulphur Springs ventilated the fire by opening up the roof above where the fire reportedly ignited.
When I arrived at the scene, there were flames coming out the bathroom and the roof, said Donald Sherwood, 1st Assistant Chief of the Swan Lake Fire Department.
According to Sherwood, the fire was primarily contained to the bathroom, but there was extensive smoke and water damage throughout the one-family dwelling and severe damage to three rooms.
Sherwood, who was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, said the fire was determined by investigators to be accidental, although he said he thought cigarette smoking was involved.
Sullivan County Fire Determiners Steve Johnstone and Vince VonKompon were in charge of the fire investigation.
The volunteer firefighters from Swan Lake were back at station by 1:30 p.m. A few minutes later, the Sullivan County 911 Center notified them of a second working structure fire at the Red Barn Apartments (please see related story/photos).