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Friday night fire heavily damages Santa Clara Lodge

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SANTA CLARA - Firefighters from more than 18 departments and two counties helped the St. Regis Falls Volunteer Fire Department extinguish a fire in Santa Clara Friday night.

The former Santa Clara Lodge on state Route 458 was not a complete loss — two residents were displaced from their apartment within the building, but the owners may be able to salvage the attached bar, according to St. Regis Falls First Assistant Fire Chief Adam Cox.

The major issue that required mutual aid from so many departments was extremely limited access to water, Mr. Cox said.

St. Regis Falls tankers pumped about 200,000 gallons of water from fire hydrants in their own town, shuttling the water back to the scene. Eventually they were able to tap into the iced-over St. Regis River at the old Santa Clara dock.

Tankers were called in from so many departments - as far away as Helena - that Mr. Cox said he couldn’t even begin to name them all. Aid came from all over Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. He said they probably used anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 gallons of water over the course of nearly 11 hours.

The call from dispatch originally came through around 6:20 p.m. Friday, and Mr. Cox believes the residents called 911. St. Regis Falls finally called their last truck back around 5 a.m. Saturday.

When firefighters arrived on scene, flames were already showing on the exterior of the building. Mr. Cox said due to the water problem it took several hours to simply get the fire under control.

An excavator from the Franklin County Highway Department was brought in to tear into the building and give firefighters access to hotspots. The Malone Callfiremen brought in their large ladder truck to offer an aerial assault on the flames, but getting it to the scene required the Santa Clara Highway Department to come out and plow back roads.

Firefighters were pulled out of the building twice due to the heat of the blaze, once by Mr. Cox in the first hour and a half, and again by Chief Wilbur Bailey when he arrived on scene after a basketball game.

“Once we established water, things went very smooth,” Mr. Cox said. “Everyone worked well together.”

Volunteers from the North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross provided food, clothing and seasonal garments to the two displaced adult residents. They were also given help with replacing glasses and medications and were provided comfort kits.

Their dog escaped the building unharmed, although Mr. Cox suspects they’ve lost everything else.

A firefighter injured his shoulder while fighting the blaze and was taken to Adirondack Health and Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.

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