Fire totally destroyed the Gerard and Laura Trzebiatowski home Thursday, Sept. 23. No one was home at the time.
The residence was located at 1080 Johnson Road in the town of Iola. The old farmhouse was leveled by the fire and a nearby summer kitchen was severely damaged.
Laura Trzebiatowski spotted the house burning as she arrived home Sept. 23. The Iola & Rural Fire Department (IRFD) received the call at 7:04 p.m. The call came while IRFD was holding a training session, so response was very quick.
“The house was fully engulfed when we got there,” said Fire Chief Charles Fritz. “There was fire coming out of every window and door. So we launched a basically defensive attack to protect the other buildings.”
“The fire department was there right away,” Trzebiatowski said. “They kept the fire from going to the garage. Their efforts were greatly appreciated.”
According to eyewitness accounts, the first truck on the scene became stuck in the mud halfway up the driveway. Firefighters quickly ran hoses to the fire, and no time was lost. Other trucks remained on the roadway.
“I didn’t realize they got stuck and wondered why they stopped,” Trzebiatowski said. “Everything was happening so unbelievably fast. I’m grateful the house didn’t burn down while we were home sleeping.”
According to Trzebiatowski, the house had fire alarms on each floor, in the stairways and in each bedroom.
“Any time any residence burns, it’s lucky no one is killed,” Fritz said.
IRFD had 27 personnel at the scene. The Ogdensburg/St. Lawrence and Scandinavia fire departments provided tankers to help haul water.
“At this time we are not sure how the fire started,” Fritz said.
The family has two sons, Tommy, who graduated from from Iola-Scandinavia High School last year, and, Joey, who attends kindergarten at I-S Elementary. Gerard Trzebiatowski was reportedly out of state when the fire occurred.
According to Tommy Trzebiatowski, none of the family’s pets were lost in the fire. He noted that his house burned down on the “wettest day of the year.”
A donation fund for the Trzebiatowski family has been set up at First National Bank in Iola. The elementary school sent the family $200 from its needy children’s fund.
“The response has been outstanding,” Laura Trzebiatowski stated. “Family and friends provided clothes for the little guy.”
She noted that the Red Cross was on the scene immediately and offered supplies and lodging for the family. “There are enough other people who need their help,” Trzebiatowski said. “Our friends and neighbors are being more than generous.”
The family is currently staying with neighbors.