Live: Learning Details from Deadly Fire in Watertown

Date: November 17, 2017


WATERTOWN, NY (WWNY) – Watertown police have identified the man who died Friday in a house fire in the city. He is 83 year old Lewis DeShane.

Police said he was located inside the basement area and that medical examiner ruled the cause of death as asphyxiation due to inhalation of carbon monoxide.

He was the owner of “Sunset Heating and Air Conditioning” at 202 – 206 Main Avenue.

Officials said he ran the business out of the building and lived upstairs.

One person escaped the fire that was reported at the home around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

From his apartment on the 8th floor of Hilltop Towers, J.P. Monico watched the fire.

“I heard a big boom and I could see the flames up at this height going by the window. I looked out the window and the house was blazing,” he said.

Fire Chief Dale Herman said rescuers were unable to reach the victim, despite repeated attempts.

“Tried to make an attempt to get in to try and find that victim and were unsuccessful,” Herman said. “Some of the things hampered it were a number of the windows on the first floor level where the victim has supposed to have been had security bars on them.”

Herman said firefighters didn’t give up.

“We later tried to make a second entry into the building to try and find the victim and found the floor had deteriorated in that area and unsafe for firefighters to continue into the space.”

Herman said investigators talked to the person who escaped the blaze. He told authorities he lives in a trailer on the property, but went inside the home to keep warm.

“They had put some wood in the wood stove in the basement prior to the discovery of the fire, so that is one of the things that we’ll be looking at,” Herman said, “along with all the other utilities and possibilities for fire cause and eliminating those things that we can.”

Investigators determined the fire started in the basement of the home near a wood burning heating appliance. However, the exact cause is still listed as undetermined.

Firefighters remained at the scene “for quite a bit of the day trying to to look for the victim that we still believe is in the home as well as hit any initial hot spots,” Herman said.

The building was razed due to its condition for the safety of the neighborhood, officials said.

The chief is asking people to stay away from the Main Avenue area.

Herman said firefighters saw several propane tanks around the property, adding to the hazardous conditions.

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