Three fires in the last week and a half have had the Woodstock Fire Department working hard, and though, fortunately, no people have been injured in the blazes, a family has been left without a dwelling in the latest one, in which a cat also perished.
“It runs like that, quiet for a while, then really busy,” said Woodstock Fire Chief Kevin Peters.
Firefighters responded to a 2 a.m. call Tuesday, July 26, at a residence at 11 Schoonmaker Lane. “I pulled in and it probably a third was involved, it was through the roof, ran through the attic,” said Peters. “The people at 176 Tinker called it in. The house was behind them.”
Living there, according to Molly Chassman-Hill, a family friend, was Tara Thompson-Martinez and her two boys, ages 7 and 12. “All their belongings were lost in the fire,” said Chassman-Hill. “The kids literally have two pairs of clothing left and bathing suits.” She confirmed that a cat, named Manny Pacquiao, died in the fire. She said a firefighter tried to resuscitate the cat.
Peters said that there were a total of 50-55 firefighters there, from all the Woodstock companies as well as Centerville, Cedar Grove and West Hurley. “At 2 a.m., that’s pretty good,” he said. There apparently was nobody at the house when the fire started, nor when the firefighters arrived. And there was no information as of Wednesday afternoon, July 27, as to the cause of the fire.
“Investigators were in the corner in one of the bedrooms. They have that as the room of origin. I though they were going to have it by now. But they may say undetermined and let the insurance investigators [make the determination.]”
Peters was upset for the boys. “The kids lost everything. all their toys, clothes. They lived there all their lives.” He listed their clothing sizes as size 6 small for the 7-year-old; and boys x-large or men’s small for the 12 year old, for donation purposes.
Additionally, a Go-Fund-Me site is set up at www.gofundme.com/loveforoscar-owen to help the family.
Tara Thompson-Martinez sent word that she wanted to thank all the selfless firefighters who responded and risked their lives to try to save her property.
Car fires at Overlook Trail
Working backward in time, a call came in to Woodstock Dispatch at 3:47 p.m. Saturday, July 23 stating that several cars were on fire in the Meads Mountain Road parking lot for the Overlook trailhead, across from KTD Monastery. According to Police Chief Clayton Keefe, “One car overheated on the way up the road but didn’t catch on fire until after its owners had started up the trail. Three other cars other caught fire.”
“They were tightly parked,” said Fire Chief Peters. “There’s no cause reported yet. Probably an overheated engine compartment, little oil on the engine. The people were up on the mountain. It’s tough to come out and your car is gone, burned up.”
The Woodstock Fire Department responded and closed the road while ensuring no other vehicles in the packed lot caught fire. They also helped those hikers who returned from the mountain to find their cars burned get back down Meads Mountain to town. “It was a freak accident,” said Keefe.
Fire destroys Willow home; missing woman found
In the first of the three fires, the department responded to an 8:30 a.m. Saturday, July 15 call at 370 Silver Hollow Road in Willow. Woodstock Fire Chief Kevin Peters says a jogger had heard crackling and investigated, then ran home to make a call.
“Ten to 15 minutes later we arrived. It had been burning for quite some time and there was a car blocking the driveway,” Peters said. “The police arrived, and then the sheriff’s department, who asked us to go back to the road and wait while they set up a command center…It was pretty much a surround and drown situation.”
The house burned down to its basement. The driveway is pitted and difficult to navigate. One week after the fire, a single strand of yellow police tape was down at the lost home’s entrance, watched over by a rustic windmill folly, and there was a Chevy Blazer parked en route, as well as a VW Jetta closer to the charred remains.
Woodstock Police Chief Clayton Keefe said the presence of the car led to worries that someone had been lost in the blaze, or in the surrounding forest afterwards. Detective Jason Brook of the Ulster County Sheriff’s office took over the investigation. After firefighters with the help of the Woodstock highway department put out what remained of the fire the county’s Cause and Origin team determined that there were no signs of human remains at the site and the sheriff’s department put out an alert for 51 year old Patricia Bolin, who police determined had been staying at the house.
“It became a missing persons investigation with the Sheriff’s Office as the lead agency,” said Keefe.
In their missing person’s release, the sheriff’s department noted Bolin as “a 5’9” light skinned black female with black hair and brown eyes…known to have mental health problems.” They also said she had last been seen at the residence three days prior to the fire.
Later on the afternoon of July 15, Keefe added, Woodstock Police received a call from Bolin’s husband, also in Willow, from whom she had an order of protection.
“She was there, and was taken to the hospital,” Keefe said, noting that he’d heard that state police and the Ulster County Arson Task Force are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Peters added that one neighbor on Silver Hollow Road had heard a “small boom” a few hours earlier than the first call on the fire, which he thought might be a propane tank exploding. But Detective Brook said no. “The cause is still under investigation,” he said. “All I can say for certain now is that the propane tank did not explode.”
Keefe said that the house at 370 Silver Hollow Road is owned by a downstate resident and he was unclear how long Bolin had been staying there.
Detective Brook said Tuesday, July 26 that he had yet to speak to Bolin, who was physically well but not cooperating yet.
Peters, commenting July 27, said that there was no word yet on the cause. “It was totally in the basement when we arrived. It took a lot of water to get it out. There was nothing left, it even burned the sill plates on the blocks. Thank goodness it rained a couple of days before, otherwise we’d have been chasing a brush fire through the woods.”
And Peters commented on the flurry of activity. “We got back to the fire house at 5 a.m. yesterday morning,” he said about the Schoonmaker Lane blaze, after which he and many of the firefighters prepared for a day’s work at their regular jobs. “Yep that’s part of it, just a long day, just like when it snows,” said Peters, who works for the town Highway Department. “It was a busy week, that’s all. Maybe next week will be quiet.”