CATSKILL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Multiple fire departments and rescue services responded to a house fire and explosion at 193 Main Street in Catskill early Wednesday morning. The Catskill Fire Company Inc. says an explosion caused by oxygen tanks at the location lead to a partial collapse of the building.
New York State Police have confirmed that one resident died as a result of the fire. Harry Braker, 74, was unaccounted for but eventually found deceased in the home. Fire Chief John Holt with the Catskill Fire Department explained, “The fire was so heavy we couldn’t get to him. It started in his room.”
Around 6:24 a.m., a heavily involved structure fire was reported on lower Main Street in Catskill. Firefighters say the fire had reached all three floors in the rear upon arrival. Firefighters tried to enact a rescue and advise others that the fire was going to potentially cut them off and trap them inside. Chief Holt made the call to get his crew out of the home just before the structure partially collapsed. He said, “My assistant chief at this second window had to bail because the fire was coming down on him.”
All firefighters were able to evacuate and a hose line was burned through, according to the Catskill Fire Company Inc. Firefighters also say the explosion caused by oxygen tanks rocked the home and was felt throughout the Village of Catskill.
Mr. Braker’s attorney arrived at the scene as firefighters assessed the damage. He was able to salvage a few old photos from the charred home. “I grabbed these pictures because they are someone’s memories. If I can get a little bit of stuff before it gets torn down to let family sort through it then that’s what I’ll do,” said Wayne Thompson, the family’s attorney.
According to the fire officials, the tenants on the first floor were able to get out safely. The building will be demolished once a damage assessment is completed. Investigations are ongoing but State Police says the fire appears to be accidental.