Walton blaze displaces tenants

Volunteer firefighter shortage plagues communities, fire chief says


WALTON - A mid-morning blaze at 12 Griswold Street, Walton, has displaced two families who were tenants in the three family apartment building. The fire was called in by one of the tenants, at approximately 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16. The tenants, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that everyone exited the building unharmed. However, the second-floor tenant reported, one of her three cats was left behind in the apartment when she exited with her two children. All three cats safely made it out of the apartment, she later reported.

The third apartment, located on the first floor, was not rented and was vacant, both tenants reported. 

The second tenant, who rents a three-bedroom, two-floor apartment on the left side of the building, was not home at the time of the fire, he said. He was notified by the second-floor tenant that the fire originated in his apartment, on the second-floor. The tenant in the three-bedroom apartment said he believes the fire must have been caused by a faulty bathroom fan on the second floor. He moved into the apartment two months ago, he said, and reported to the property owner, who lives Woodstock, that the bathroom ceiling fan has been squealing for the past couple of weeks. “I think when I left yesterday, I must have left the fan on. I don’t know if it “spurred out” and got hot,” the tenant guessed. 

Walton Fire Chief Frank Wood reported the fire was toned out at 10:15 a.m., called in as a possible structure fire. The first firefighter arrived on scene at 10:29 a.m. and discovered heavy smoke coming from the structure, Wood said. Delhi and Trout Creek were immediately requested to the scene, due to the lack of Walton firefighter manpower and equipment, he continued. Wood also requested Franklin, Sidney and Oneonta rapid response teams. Oneonta and Sidney were unavailable, Wood said. A Downsville crew responded to standby at Walton’s station and Wood requested Bovina and Wells Bridge to the scene with manpower at 11:31 a.m.

The fire started in a bathroom on the second floor, Wood said. It was a challenge accessing the third floor to combat the blaze, he said, because an interior renovation divided the home in half. Firefighters cut through a wall to gain access to the apartment where the fire started, he said.

The home was deemed uninhabitable, Wood said, due to heavy smoke and water damage, and roof damage.

The tenants did have working fire alarms which alerted them to the fire, Wood said.

There were no injuries reported and the fire was under control at 12:13 p.m. “We then went into an overhaul stage and started to release personnel at approximately 12:50 p.m.” Wood said. The scene was cleared at 1:33 p.m., and all fire departments were back in service at 2:21 p.m.

Fire departments are suffering from a nationwide shortage in volunteers, Wood said. “Today was a prime example of that,” he said. 

On scene were Walton, Franklin, Trout Creek, Delhi and Bainbridge Fire Departments; AMR Ambulance, Delaware County Fire Coordinator’s Office, Delaware County Emergency Services, Walton Police, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, NYSEG and the American Red Cross.