A fire consumed a multi-car garage in Esperance on Wednesday afternoon, destroying a half-dozen vehicles and narrowly missing other structures on Robert and Gincie Clough’s property at 2198 State Route 30. There were no injuries.
The fire was called in at around noon and it took firefighters an hour-and-a-half to put out.
At 2 p.m., the free-standing garage was a charred and smoldering husk. Vehicles damaged beyond repair include a 2016 Forest River Sunseeker motor home, 2007 PT Cruiser convertible, 2016 Toyota Prius, an older model Mercedes-Benz, a 1981 Kawasaki motorcycle, a 10 horsepower snow blower and a 23 horsepower Cub Cadet lawnmower.
The lawnmower, Robert Clough believes, was the source of the fire. Clough said he had started up the mower in an area behind the garage when he noticed leaves beneath and behind the machine had caught fire.
“I started it up, saw the fire behind it, moved the lawnmower up here and thought ‘this is probably nothing,’” said Clough, of the now-blackened Cub Cadet ride-on parked behind the garage. “But it wasn’t, as you can see. [The fire] spread to the back wall of the garage and the whole thing went up.”
As to the exact cause, Schoharie County Fire Coordinator Matt Brisley said an investigation is ongoing out of the Schenectady County Fire Coordinator’s Office.
“I think it’s too early to say,” said Brisley.
A 2007 Chevy Silverado was also damaged, possibly beyond repair. Clough estimated the total damage close to $200,000.
“I guess it’s time to call my insurance company and start arguing with them,” he said.
Clough said he had just bought the motor home, for $95,000. The Prius was also new, he said, and was valued at $27,000.
“We hadn’t even taken a trip in the motor home yet,” he said as he surveyed the damage, hands in pockets. “I don’t think we’re going to.”
Clough estimated the flames to have reached about 10 feet above the corrugated metal garage, which itself stands about 20 feet tall. Branches at the top of a nearby tree standing over the structure were scorched, and firefighters doused the tree and the surrounding area with water. Other first responders stood talking or coiled hoses as they prepared to leave the scene.
The garage is about 35 feet from the Cloughs’ house, the vinyl siding of which had been partially melted, and 25 feet from a nearby barn that contained animals.
“Blessed,” said Gincie Clough, when asked how she was feeling. “Nobody was hurt, no animals, just the garage.”
Gincie Clough believes both the barn and their home were spared only by the direction of the wind.
“We have two horses, if the wind had been blowing up towards the barn we would have lost the horses,” she said. “If the wind had been blowing towards the house we could have lost the house, too.”
Esperance Volunteer Fire Department Chief Matt Deffer said units from five fire departments — including Esperance, Delancey, Duanesburg, Central Bridge and Burtonville — responded to the call around noon on Wednesday. He confirmed no injuries occurred during the fire or its suppression.
“It took about an hour-and-a-half to put out,” said Deffer of the fire. “When [first responders] got here they said it was fully involved, the whole structure was consumed. We protected the exposures so the house didn’t get it. It did melt a little bit of the siding [on the house].”
The Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the fire and took statements from the Cloughs.
Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, [email protected] or @DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.