November 27, 2021

Cause of fire sought

7 left homeless in McGraw house aided by Red Cross

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

The remains of 15 Church St., McGraw are visible Tuesday afternoon. The investigation of the fire is ongoing.

The silence around the burned house Tuesday at 15 Church St. was interrupted only by the sharp sound of debris that Dennis Ware, a fire investigator with Ware Investigation Services, was shifting from place to place.

Ware walked and looked through the house, trying to get details for the investigation.

The cause of a fire that left seven people in McGraw without a home remains under investigation, according to Colin Brennan, the director of communications for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Bob Schutle, who lives two houses down from 15 Church St., said he just arrived home and planned on heading out again when he saw smoke coming from the house. “Everyone got out and it proceeded to burst into flames,” he said. “Shortly after, the fire department (McGraw) came down. They did a good job. They were really quick.”

McGraw Fire Chief Jeff Sherwood could not be reached for comment.

The fire, which was reported 8:11 a.m. Monday, led to responses from McGraw, Cortland and Cortlandville fire departments. The Cortland County Sheriff’s Office assisted fire investigators from the Office of State Fire Prevention and Control.

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Dennis Ware, a fire investigator with Ware Investigation Services LLC, walks Tuesday through the remains of 15 Church St. in McGraw. The investigation of Monday’s fire is ongoing.

Lt. Todd Caufield also did not have any cause of the fire, saying the investigation was ongoing, but he did not think the cause was criminal in nature.

Dan Hartman, the regional communications program manager for American Red Cross’s Western and Central New York region, said the Red Cross will meet with the residents, who have not been identified, to see what their needs are and help provide temporary housing and food.

After their immediate needs are taken care of, caseworkers will meet with the residents to discuss what their long-term plans are for recovering, he said.

The building is owned by Rosella Sears and Bryant Stetson, according to the Cortland County Real Property Tax Services office.

It is listed as a one-family residential unit.