Allegany County, Alfred will loan equipment to Burns

CANASERAGA — A fire that ripped through the Town of Burns Highway Department building at 87 Main St. Thursday afternoon totaled several pieces of equipment and left the shop area unusable.

A passerby reported the fire at 1:18 p.m., alerting Canaseraga Fire Chief Scott Odell by calling the chief’s cell phone.

There were no injuries to firefighters or town employees, as most of the highway crew were finished for the day at 1 p.m.

In addition to Canaseraga, fire departments from Arkport, Birdsall and Nunda fought the fire.

"Everyone did a great job. I had a very fast response from my department and all of my surrounding departments," Odell said.

While the cause remains under investigation by Allegany County fire investigators, early indications point to a highway truck catching fire initially.

"The cause of the fire is still undetermined at this time, but they’re thinking that it was due to one of the dump trucks caught on fire, and then it just burned the shop and everything else that was in it," Odell, a Burns Highway Department worker, said.

"There’s one truck that was heavily damaged. The other truck was pretty heavily damaged with smoke and heat. It burned the loader up. And then our third truck just got some smoke damage, and the shop is probably going to be a total loss."

Odell said the town’s insurance company will assess a monetary loss, but "there was a lot of damage."

Odell began his highway department shift at 5 a.m., Thursday. He clocked out at 1 p.m., but he wasn’t gone for long.

Odell explained, "We literally just got back from plowing snow. There’s me and another guy and my boss. We had just all got back from plowing the snow, fueled the trucks up, parked them, and we just left the shop to go home for the day.

"And then my boss had come back at ten after one and did a walk-through of the shop just to make sure everything was closed, the doors and everything, and at 1:18 is when we got the fully involved fire.

"A passerby called me personally, and I told them to hurry up, call 9-11."

Between 30 and 35 firefighters responded. Firefighters finally got the upper hand after using a Gradall excavator to remove a door.

"We entered through one of the man doors, a walk-through door – and the shop was so filled with smoke, heavy, black smoke that you couldn’t see nothing," Odell said. "You couldn’t see flames. You couldn’t see nothing, so then we backed out and got a piece of equipment that was sitting outside and knocked one of the doors down, and then we went right inside and attacked the fire from there.

"As soon as we got that door knocked down and got the smoke cleared, then you could see what was going on in there after that. The shop was so closed up and tight that the smoke just stayed. It just didn’t have anywhere to go until we vented it."

Neighboring highway departments have come to the aid of Burns.

"Allegany County DPW loaned us a loader and a truck, and the Town of Alfred loaned us a truck so we can still maintain our roads," Odell said.