By Ted Waddell
SWAN LAKE December 11, 2001 For volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services personnel, it must have seemed as if all hell was breaking loose Thursday in the otherwise sleepy community of Swan Lake, as within a few hours of a house fire being quickly extinguished, the Sullivan County 911 Center started getting calls that flames were pouring out of doors and windows at the Red Barn Apartments on Route 55.
Swan Lake Fire Department firefighters were still putting away their gear from the first call when the second Signal One alarm of the day went off. Within minutes, volunteers from three local companies arrived at the scene: Swan Lake, Liberty and White Sulphur Springs.
Kauneonga Lake was assigned to stand-by at Swan Lake, while Youngsville was on stand-by at White Sulphur Springs. About 35-40 local volunteer firefighters responded to the scene.
The fire was reported at 2 p.m., and the Swan Lake Department didnt return home until shortly before 4 p.m.
According to Donald Sherwood, 1st Assistant Chief of the Swan Lake Fire Department, as emergency service units arrived at the scene, flames were coming from the living room window and exit door of Sue Davis first-floor apartment.
Her apartment sustained heavy fire, water and smoke damage, and most of the interior contents were ruined, including Christmas gifts. (The Sullivan County chapter of the Red Cross is assisting Davis.)
An upstairs apartment reportedly occupied by a couple and their child also sustained heavy smoke damage.
Davis was reportedly the only member of her family home at the time the fire ignited. She was sleeping when it broke out, and apparently found her way out after her cat woke her up. She sustained a burned arm and was treated at the scene and later transported to the Catskill Regional Medical Center by EMS personnel from the Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
The fire was determined to be accidental, of unknown origin, said Sherwood, adding that he thought cigarette smoking may have been a factor in the blaze.
The fire was investigated by Sullivan County Fire Determiners Steve Johnstone and Vince VonKompon.
Will Moore just moved into the apartment complex and found himself trying to put out the fire while he called the emergency control center.
The door was on fire, and the windows were breaking when I got here, he said as residents and passersby stood around, watching firefighters battle the blaze. I ripped the door off and grabbed some towels to try to beat it down, but the flames were too hot, so I got out of the way.
Kristi-Jo Radeboldt and her daughter Brianna Spina watched as her friends apartment went up in flames. She was one of the several residents who called the 911 center.
We saw the fire coming out of her apartment and called 911, said Radeboldt.
Christine Poukaply was at work at Valley Auto in Monticello when she got a call from a friend telling her one of the apartments was on fire. At the time of the blaze, her 9-year-old daughter Jesstine was at home being cared for by a babysitter.
Poukaply rushed back to the apartment complex, as did many other residents once word of the blaze spread.
She was really scared, said Poukaply of her daughters reaction to the blaze.
Before her mother arrived, the terrified little girl found comfort in the sheltering arms of Kim, her babysitter.