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Lewis man, 84, loses classic cars, longtime business in fire

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WATSON — With the hum of a generator running outside, Kenneth A. Lyndaker, 84, sat in his home Saturday trying to recall what he’d lost in a devastating garage fire the night before.

A makeshift covering over the kitchen windows, blown out by the intense heat of the blaze, blocked the view of what used to be a two-story, 80-by-120-foot structure at 7214 Kotel Road.

In the midst of the still-smoldering wreckage, a Mack tri-axle dump truck could be found. Unrecognizable in the blackened, iced-over mess were remnants of a collection of classic cars and a cache of expensive equipment and rare parts gathered over decades of Mr. Lyndaker’s trucking and heavy-equipment repair business.

His sons, Lauren and Bob, scanned the scene, attempting to identify destroyed items.

The recollection of pieces won’t be necessary for reimbursement purposes. Mr. Lyndaker did not carry insurance on the building or its contents.

He didn’t heed the advice of a friend, who told him to store the classic cars outside.

“He said to cover them up and keep them away from trees. If there was a forest fire, you could move it in any direction. If it’s in a garage, it will be tough to get it out,” Mr. Lyndaker recalled of the advice he ignored.

Just last week, his wife, Debra A. Wright-Lyndaker, had requested he move one of the classic cars outside, but he explained, “It had a little bit of salt on it. I was going to clean it up real good first.”

His collection lost in the fire included a 1978 Mustang Ghia, a 1971 Ford LTD convertible and two 1978 Mustang Cobras.

“One just went into the garage last week. It was completely redone. The other was not,” Mr. Lyndaker said of the Cobras.

As Mr. Lyndaker reflected on his loss, he paused.

He got up and looked for a 2003 calendar featuring a truck he helped restore.

“That truck, that was something,” he said of the 1956 Mack H-63 shown in the photo.

He was working on another restoration project, a 1966 Twin Turbo 864 Mack tractor.

“You can’t replace it,” Mr. Lyndaker said. “It was one of two left in the world. The other one is on the road. Mack only built 20 of them.”

The chassis is ready for the truck at another location, but without the engine, it is of no use.

“Maybe we can salvage it,” he said of the rare engine.

He recalled a lifetime of tools collected, numerous truck parts, a steam cleaner, impact wrenches, a stick welder and a wire welder, air compressors and sand blasters.

“I had tools for any job you could ever get into,” he said.

He said that he lost 45 cords of wood in an attached shed and that his wife lost exercise equipment and other items in the upstairs.

Mr. Lyndaker said he believes the fire originated in the second story, but the cause has yet to be determined.

He briefly attempted to figure out a dollar amount for the items destroyed. “I have no idea of estimating what I lost,” he said. “I had nine diesel truck engines, all rebuilt and ready to go.”

He is hopeful some tools still will be usable, as the collapse of the structure buried some things, partially protecting them.

“Some of the tools are just dark colored now,” he said. “They can still be used.”

In between the lists of tools, vehicles and equipment were stories of Mr. Lyndaker’s nearly 70 years in the business, employing an average of 55 people for 20 of those years.

He recalled building the garage about 1987 with the help of his son Lauren B. and friend Sherwood “Sonny” Herzig.

“We built the whole first story ourselves,” he said, but contracted the second story to someone else.

“It’s all hemlock, minus the steel beams. I used a Bantam crane” to place the beams, he said. “It went 60 feet in the air.”

He said the entire building was double-boarded, and recalled recently counting the floor joists, “There were 280 of them, all two-by-tens,” he said. The structure had a tin roof.

Timothy N. Bush, Lowville Volunteer Fire Department chief, said the fire was tough to put out.

“With all the steel, it was hard to get to. We just couldn’t get to it,” he said. “At one point, at the peak of the fire, the flames were probably 100 feet in the air.”

Some Lowville residents reported they could see the blaze from the hill north of the village, about seven miles away.

Volunteers also were contending with extreme temperatures.

“It was very intense,” Mr. Bush said. “Our turnout gear is rated for 600 degrees,” though the firefighters still had difficulty with the heat.

The temperatures were high enough to twist the steel beams, collapsing them into the burning debris below.

Department vehicles were affected, as well.

“We had a cracked windshield and melted lenses,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Lyndaker’s son Lauren has a sawmill on the property just a short distance from the garage. It had to be doused with water several times as it caught fire.

In the end it was saved; however, the exterior was scorched.

Lowville volunteers responded about 5:30 p.m., and with mutual aid from New Bremen, Croghan, Beaver Falls, Glenfield, Brantingham and Martinsburg fire departments, battled the blaze until about 10:30 p.m.

About 12:30 a.m., they were called back out as rekindling was shooting sparks into the air. Volunteers were able to extinguish the rekindle by about 2 a.m.







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