Malfunctioning pellet stove blamed for fire that leaves one homeless

By By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder

TOWN OF CANAJOHARIE — One man is homeless after flames ravaged his two-story wood-frame home here on Friday afternoon.

Canajoharie Fire Chief Frank Nestle said Melvin Donato, the owner of the roughly 125-year-old structure at 380 Fredericks St., lost everything.

“It was a total loss,” Nestle said. “Nothing could be saved. There’s a couple of walls standing but the roof is into the first floor at this time.”

Nestle said the homeowner had no insurance.

Fortunately Donato was not home at the time. “He was at work,” said Nestle.

There were no reports of injuries.

Nestle said the cause of the 1:56 p.m. blaze has been attributed to a malfunction in the pellet stove.

“It got a head start on us,” he said, noting that by the time fire crews arrived, the front windows had blown out, and the fire was burning fiercely.

The wind was also blowing a little, which fanned the flames battled by Canajoharie, Rural Grove, Ames, Fort Plain and South Minden firefighters. Firefighters from Ephratah and Charleston Fire Departments were on standby at area stations.

Others responding to the fire scene were Mid-County Ambulance personnel, the Montgomery County Emergency Management Office and the Montgomery County Cause and Origin Team, who investigated, said Nestle.

Firefighters were at the Fredericks Street location until 8:30 or 9 p.m. Friday, primarily trying to address hot spots in areas where the structure had fallen in, he said. They were called back to the scene at around 6:10 a.m. in response to a flare-up.

Nestle said Donato declined Red Cross assistance. He is currently staying with friends.

Members of a local church reportedly want to reach out to the owner to assist him with clothing needs. Additional information about that initiative was not available at press time.