HONESDALE - The blaze that heavily damaged the Geo. W. Kinsman Inc. building does not appear suspicious, fire officials said Wednesday, adding that no one was injured.
A visibly overwhelmed Kinsman, whose business has been around since the 1920s, said the fire may have been sparked by a furnace in the two-story brick building on the 500 block of Main Street.
The blaze appeared to have started on the second floor, where the majority of the damage occurred, said state police Fire Marshal Sandra VanLuvender.
The trooper said Wednesday morning the investigation was continuing and she didn't yet know the cause.
Kinsman's is a machinery dealer with 12 employees. The owner said the building is insured.
The Honesdale Fire Department was dispatched to the burning building at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday and arrived to find flames coming from the roof, said Deputy Chief Brian W. Dulay.
Dulay said an interior attack of the second floor was initiated as there were rental apartments on that level.
"Fire conditions limited our crews from advancing onto the fire floor," said the deputy chief in a news release. None of the apartments had tenants, he said.
The blaze was under control by 11:40 p.m. and the scene was cleared by 2:38 a.m., Dulay said.
Kipp Welsh, captain for Alert Hook and Ladder No. 2 with the Honesdale Fire Department, provided some background on the call.
While the fire is still under investigation by Honesdale Fire Marshall George Korb and VanLuvender, Welsh said the cause points to a heating unit on the second floor.
“PSP has to confirm it,” he explained. “It possibly malfunctioned and it's possible there's a source of ignition and flame.”
Meanwhile, Kinsman will have to hire an engineer to inspect the building and make a recommendation to the borough on whether it may need to be razed, said Daniel J. Hnatko, the borough zoning/code enforcement officer.
Welsh added that the first floor received major water and smoke damage.
“The fire was contained to the second and third floor and the roof collapsed,” Welsh stated. “We had to use a lot of elevated master streams, portable water monitors and three inch hand lines to extinguish [the fire].
“The water supply was good and we didn't have water issues. We tapped into three hydrants.”
Welsh added the only issue was water on the road.
“The drains were frozen on Main Street and it [water] was overflowing to the other side of the road,” he explained. “It made conditions harder. Eventually it went down the drain.”
Welsh said the temperature was 12 degrees and there was some minor slippage on the ice.
“You're dealing with the elements,” he stated. “It was a group effort with manpower. Everyone was coming through.
“I want to stress that even though it's tragic for the Kinsman family and the community, the fire didn't spread north to other buildings. It was a remarkable stop on everybody's end.
“We don't have many big calls like this. This was one of the biggest fires in my 32 years of fire service and it's one of the first major ones on Main Street we've had [in a long time].”
A fire wall and the quick work of firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to a connected business, Honesdale GH Flowers, Hnatko said.
There were no reported injuries.
“We have pride in Honesdale that we have a quick response time when 9-1-1 is called,” Welsh said. “It makes our job easier if we can contain it [the fire] before it gets out of control."
"They made a great stop," Hnatko said of firefighters. He noted a fire wall is just a "time-saver" and can be breached if there is not a quick response by fire crews.
Dulay said the crew made a trench-cut on the roof to stop the fire from advancing through the row of attached structures.
Honesdale GH Flowers sustained only minor water damage to the ceiling, said owner Joy Schulatta, though the business was closed Wednesday.
Schulatta credited firefighters for their prompt response and for preventing the fire from spreading.
"The fire department did a phenomenal job," said the business owner. "I can't say enough about them."
Laurel Gardner, owner of Laurel's Coffee Grinder on the same block as Kinsman's, also lauded the fire department.
"We owe them a debt of gratitude," she said, noting that the entire block could have been burned had it not been for the quick work of the firefighters.
The Wayne County Commissioners also shared their thoughts.
“We feel very badly,” said Commissioner Brian Smith. “It's been a business in the area for a very long time, even back when agriculture was absolutely the biggest industry in our county."
Commissioner Wendell Kay said he knows George Kinsman on a personal level.
“George and I were high school classmates,” he said. “We were in the same homeroom for four years.
“It's impossible to see something like that [fire] happen without just feeling terrible for George and his family, the employees and everybody that's connected to them."
Dulay credited numerous emergency agencies that assisted, including Seelyville, White Mills, Beach Lake, Browndale, Forest Fire, Carbondale, William Walker of Mayfield, Clifford, Wilson Hose of Peckville, Wayne County EMA, Commonwealth Health and Wayne Ambulance and dispatchers at 911.