Organizers raised at least $7,000 at a fundraiser Sunday at The Local Pub and Teahouse, less than a block away from a fire that displaced seven city residents on Wednesday.
“It’s an opportunity to give back to your local neighborhood, and that’s what we want to be is a neighborhood place,” said the bar’s co-owner, Jon Haynes. “It was our neighbors.”
Authorities believe the fire started at 153 Grand Ave. on the back porch after cigarette ashes fell and ignited leaves under the porch. The leaves smouldered for hours and the fire eventually spread throughout the building. All four apartments were destroyed and the building will have to be demolished, officials said.
No one was injured, but residents lost most of their belongings in the fire. Initial reports suggested 10 tenants were displaced, but the number was later revised to seven.
One of the tenants, Francelise Dawkins, was up early Wednesday morning talking with her friend, Stephen Tyson, when the pair heard a violent bang near Dawkins’ door at about 6 a.m.
“Oh my God, somebody’s breaking in,” Dawkins, 56, recalled thinking. “That’s all I could think about.”
It turns out the loud bang they heard was a can of insect spray that had exploded in the fire.
Dawkins said she and Tyson escaped the blaze but ran back into the building to bang on doors and wake other tenants.
The Local Pub and Teahouse at 142 Grand Ave. hosted a silent auction that included artwork, jewelry, gift certificates and products donated from local businesses to benefit the fire victims.
The bar also sold items donated from its suppliers, including a case of liquor, four kegs of beer and two cases of chicken wings. All money raised from those sales also went to the victims. Organizers said the money collected at the event will be distributed evenly among the seven victims.
Leigh Ollman lives next door to 153 Grand Ave. and helps out at an art gallery that shares its building with The Local Pub and Teahouse.
“I was sleeping in bed and we woke up and we heard all of these fire trucks outside,” she said. “By that time, actually, everyone was out of the house.”
The gallery displayed some of the artwork on Sunday that had been donated for the silent auction.
The Saratoga Springs Fire Department gave $2,000 to the victims through its union’s community fund and the firefighters contributed an extra $400 on their own.
“When something tragic like that happens, we want to come out to help,” said Fire Capt. Robert Williams, who was the firefighter in charge at the scene of the fire. “They lost a lot of their personal belongings.”
Williams said the fire was difficult to put out because it had been burning in the back of the building for a long time before it was discovered. The firefighters also had difficulty getting water pressure through the frozen pipes.
The building’s owner is Helena Frost, a Schenectady native who now lives in New York City. Frost was at the building Sunday as one of her workers salvaged items from the charred basement.
All that remained of a bed that had fallen into the backyard was the steel springs and frame of the mattress.
“If anything had happened to anyone, no matter whose fault it was, I would have lived with it forever,” Frost said. “You really put life in perspective.”