Steuben, N.Y. - Town of Western Fire Chief Mike Anania has been fire chief in Western for 26 years, but he says never came across a fire like the one he helped fight on Saturday, just two doors down from his own home on Lewis Rd., which lies just over the border in the Town of Steuben.
Anania says he saw smoke out of his window and that smoke was coming from his sister-in-law and brother-in-law's home. He says initially he thought they were burning brush, but when he went outside he says their house was totally on fire, "I called for help and I knew before the department got there that it was going to be an exterior attack only."
The good news, no one was home at the time, neither his sister-in-law, brother-in-law, their daughter, or his sister in-law's mother whom often stays with the family.
Anania says the size of the fire was immense and it got that way quickly, "What surprised me was how fast the fire went up, it was totally involved." He says the two and a half story structure was a prefabricated home built about ten years ago.
Anania, almost in tears Sunday morning when he spoke to News Channel 2, says the family is shaken up over what's happened, "You leave your home, and then 10 to 15 minutes later you go back and the only thing you have left is the clothes that you have on your back."
Anania says this was a difficult fire to fight not only because of the how quickly the structure went up, along with the winds that were pretty intense at the time, but maybe most difficult to fight for him personally was because members of his own family were involved, "We see this all the time yes, but I guess when your family is involved, it takes a different perspective on it for us."
Oneida County Fire Investigators are handling the investigation and Anania says they could release a preliminary cause of the fire as early as Monday.
He does think the fire started in the back of the home, possibly in the room where the family has a pellet stove.
Anania's family members declined to be interviewed. He does say they do have insurance. Right now they are staying with family members until they decide where to move to.