Roof Work May Be The Cause of Fire at Putnam County, FL Self Storage Facility
Seven hours after a smoky fire ignited inside a unit at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage on Route 22, firefighters from Putnam and four other counties continued to battle the blaze that may have been ignited by a man repairing the roof.
An employee of the facility at 1639 Route 22 said a worker was repairing the roof on the rear of two long storage buildings before the fire started. The worker was using a saw to cut through the metal roof and it was unclear if the saw had caused any sparks that may have ignited the fire.
Members of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team were at the scene but were still unable to determine the fire’s cause because firefighters were still battling the stubborn blaze.
Brewster Fire Chief Dave O’Hara confirmed that a worker had been on the roof but it was undetermined if he had anything to do with the start of the fire.
The fire was reported around 7:15 a.m. O’Hara said at 2:45 p.m. that firefighters were still dousing the blaze, and he estimated it would be 4 p.m. before it would be brought under control. He expected firefighters to be on the scene for several hours after that.
Route 22 remained closed at 2:45 p.m. between Doansburg Road and Route 312.
As many as 100 firefighters from Putnam, Westchester, Dutchess and Fairfield counties responded to the blaze. They started dousing flames in the outside units before working their way toward the center. Eventually, they brought in two ladder trucks and an excavator to open the burning units so firefighters could get to the flames.
The storage facility, located just north of Route 312 next to Kelly’s Corner Family Restaurant, has two long buildings. The one in front is about 500 feet long and contained about 60 percent of the facility’s 900 units, manager Matt Freehill said.
The second building, the one that burned, is about 375 feet long and houses about 40 percent of the 900 units. Freehill said a worker was repairing the roof of the second building near where the fire started.
The units, most of which are rented, house nearly every possession imaginable, from cars to furniture. Some units were packed to the roof with items, resembling a miniature Collyer’s Mansion.
O’Hara said the difficulty is that firefighters can only attack the blaze from the exterior. He would not let any firefighters get on the roof for fear they could fall through.
Once the fire started in one unit, it spread to adjoining units on either side, charring the contents of at least 20 units.
Freehill, the facility manager, asked people with items stored at Uncle Bob’s to give them “a couple of days” to figure things out and determine how they will deal with the aftermath. He declined to answer questions about the company’s insurance, saying that someone with a higher position in the company would figure that out.
“Obviously no one can go back there now,” Freehill told The Journal News/LoHud.com.
Early on, firefighters were having trouble locating the fire. They were opening storage shed after storage shed as they searched for the origin of the flames and smoke.
About 100 firefighters and 30 pieces of apparatus, including eight tankers, responded, said Bill Rieg, Brewster first assistant fire chief. Rieg said flammables are not supposed to be stored in the units but that firefighters weren’t sure what was inside them, adding to the danger.
Freehill called the fire a “horrible tragedy” but said it was good that no one was injured.
Brewster, Carmel, Putnam Lake, Patterson, Croton Falls, Mahopac, Lake Carmel, South Salem, Dover, Ball Pond and Mill Plain firefighters were among the local departments fighting the blaze, which generated plumes of smoke throughout the day.