OSWEGO — A late-night blaze over the weekend on Porter Street is still under investigation and Oswego Fire Department officials said bracing wind turned the fire into a “blowtorch” that devastated the unoccupied home.

At approximately 10:20 p.m. Saturday, a neighbor called 911 to report smoke and flames at 9 Porter Street between West Seneca and West Schuyler streets, officials said. The Oswego Police Department arrived first, followed immediately by OFD and Menter Ambulance. National Grid responded to the scene at about 11 p.m.

“[First responders and firefighters] encountered a heavy amount of fire coming from the home,” said Oswego Fire Department Captain and Public Information Officer Paul Conzone, who was on scene Saturday night and spoke with The Palladium-Times on Sunday. “Our initial dispatch came in as a heavily involved structure fire. The house was unoccupied — there was no one home.” 

There was no power or gas service to the home, Conzone said, and it took “the better part of an hour” to get the fire under control as gusting winds made a difficult obstacle for the responding crews.

“The wind made everything into a blowtorch,” Conzone said. “For us to show up to a house like that, it hampered our operations. That happens quite a bit in Oswego.”

Porter Street resident Elizabeth Bean said she could smell smoke that she thought might be coming from somebody’s chimney at approximately 10:15 p.m, but she could recognize from the smell there was a potential house fire.

“I shoved my kid in the neighbor’s van,” Bean said. “I don’t think I’ve ever shoved my kid so fast.”

Bean said fire from the west side of the house blew out a window and prompted her call to 911.

Conzone said there is no current cause determined for the fire.

“We don’t know right now,” he said. “It’s still under investigation which is very typical for us. We’ll take our time and sift through things. We work together with police to get interviews. It could take a few days.”

As soon as the fire had been mitigated, Conzone said an initial investigation was performed and while those do not typically ascertain causes or detailed reasons for incidents, he said at this point, no foul play was evident.

“We’ll get the size of the house and try to put a story together,” he said. “We don’t have any information about anything being suspicious at this time. Police aid us in doing most of the neighborhood investigations and interviews. It’s a very early part of an ongoing, active investigation.”

Conzone and Oswego Fire Chief Randall Griffin said no firefighter injuries were reported and the whole department did a “superb job” in responding, as did all other responders and departments. Menter Ambulance was on the scene as a safety precaution, but no first aid was administered.

Conzone praised volunteers from Oswego Town and Scriba fire crews for their help on Saturday night.

“We had a couple of other calls in the city and the Oswego Town Volunteer Fire Department came in and handled some calls, and we had Scriba Volunteer Fire Department at the ready,” he said. “We all help each other get through these scenes. We all work together.”

Two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes without a working smoke alarm, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The Oswego Fire Department recently sent out a Daylight Savings Time reminder, saying not only to “change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time but to check your smoke alarms, too.”

“Saving your life can be as simple as checking your smoke alarms,” said Griffin. Specialized smoke alert systems are also available for the hearing-impaired. 

The NFPA reports that working smoke alarms decrease by half the risk of death during a fire in the home. Smoke alarms should be installed inside of each bedroom, in hallways and every floor of a domicile, including basements and attics. Alarms should be close enough to beds in sleeping areas and loud enough to wake up residents when napping or sleeping. The earlier families respond to smoke alarms, the higher the chance of safely vacating a home in case of a deadly fire. If your smoke alarm detonates, call 911.

“You should also install carbon monoxide alarms in your home and check them once a month,” said Griffin. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and highly poisonous gas that can be caused by a faulty appliance such as a furnace or water heater. Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to sound before potentially life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide are released.

The NFPA states that people typically have less than three minutes to escape a home fire before conditions become untenable. Having smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms that work 24 hours a day greatly increases your chance of survival.

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