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Heating unit to blame for fire at vacant apartment in Herkimer

By DAVE DELLECESE

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Fire officials say a heating unit is to blame for a fire on North Main Street in the Village of Herkimer on Monday afternoon.

The fire broke out at 121 North Main Street in Herkimer shortly before Noon on Monday, with heavy smoke and flames pouring out of the third floor and attic of the multi-story structure when crews first arrived on scene.

Winds made fighting the fire a bit of a challenge, but Herkimer Fire Chief John Spanfelner said crews had it under control in roughly 20 minutes.

"We had some pretty good gusts," Chief Spanfelner said. "It was fortunate it was during the middle of the day. During the middle of the night, with a vacant building, it would've got going a lot faster and we could have had a major fire here."

Herkimer, East Herkimer and Ilion Fire Departments were all on scene, as were Herkimer Police, with North Main Street closed off to traffic at State Street as well as Park Avenue. However, that did not deter a large amount of foot traffic, as onlookers from various businesses and eateries all lined the street to watch the crews at work.

Firefighters on a ladder truck ripped away at some of the building's siding so that a larger hole could be made where once sat a window. From that space came mattresses tossed to the ground below, many of which were either partially or completely burnt.

Chief Spanfelner said that the vacant apartment portion of the building had been remodeled in the recent past and that there were a number of mattresses on the floor - two right above the fire that were completely destroyed, and another that was stacked against a wall inside.

"Whether they were getting ready to use them as apartments is unknown at this time until I talk to the owner," Chief Spanfelner said.

Investigators remained on the scene past 2 p.m. on Monday, determining the fire's point of origin to be a front corner of the third floor of the building, a floor that at one time housed apartments, but is currently vacant.

Chief Spanfelner said he does not believe anybody was in the building at the time of the fire.

Aside from being vacant, fire officials originally thought the only portion of the building where any electricity was connected was to storefronts on the bottom floor of the building, such as the former Not a Problem Computers. Later in the afternoon, Chief Spanfelner said his crews learned that there was, in fact, power going to the entire structure, including the vacant apartment areas.

The Chief said investigators believe the fire started in the pipe of a gas heating unit stretching from the floor to the ceiling and that something inside the pipe may have caught fire.

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