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HUDSON FALLS — Two people were hurt early Friday when a wind-whipped fire tore through their home and gutted the structure.

The fire at 131 John St. was called in at about 4:10 a.m. The home was occupied by four people, who made it out without serious injuries.

The cause remained under investigation late Friday afternoon, the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control and State Police called in to assist Hudson Falls Police and Washington County fire investigators.

Hudson Falls Assistant Fire Chief John Santa Croce said a resident suffered smoke inhalation when he was rescuing a pet. Two others were transported to Glens Falls Hospital as well, but he said all had been treated and released as of 8:30 a.m.

He said it was unclear whether the home had smoke detectors, or what alerted the residents to the fire.

“The first call was for a working structure fire with possible entrapment,” Santa Croce said. “When we arrived, it was a fully involved structure fire. The residents had evacuated.”

Queensbury resident Vernon Gibbs identified the residents of the home as his sister, Stacey LaValley, brother-in-law, Brian LaValley, their daughter, Megan, and her friend, who had been living in the home with the LaValleys.

He said Brian LaValley suffered burns to his back and smoke inhalation as he escorted the family dog out of the burning home, and the friend who was staying with them suffered minor burns as well.

“They barely got out,” Gibbs said at the fire scene.

The LaValleys believed the fire appeared to start on or around a first-floor futon, Gibbs said.

He said the family has insurance, and plans to stay with relatives. But they lost everything, fleeing the home with just the clothes on their back, Gibbs added.

An online fund has been set up to aid the family, which can be found at

The initial fire response was hindered when a live power wire broke free from the house and landed on a Hudson Falls firetruck, disabling it until National Grid arrived to shut off the power. The truck did not appear damaged, Santa Croce said.

Hudson Falls Police Chief Randy Diamond said his officers were interviewing residents Friday morning and afternoon, but none seemed to have an idea how the fire started. County fire investigators could be seen working on the first floor into the early afternoon.

A state Bureau of Fire canine handler was on scene later Friday as well. The agency’s dogs are trained to check for possible accelerants, but Diamond said it had not been determined whether the fire was intentionally set as of late Friday afternoon.

“We are just trying to rule some things out,” Diamond said. “It had to start somehow. We just don’t know how yet.”

“With a fire of this magnitude, we wanted to call in all the resources we can,” Santa Croce said. “These guys are the expert.”

Neighbor Ross Cortese said his wife awoke to screaming, and then heard popping. Cortese, the village code enforcement officer, said he went outside to find all four residents out of the burning home and in front of it, a man leading a dog out the front door as the flames spread.

One woman seemed to have suffered smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene by an ambulance that arrived quickly, he said. The man apparently had some burns.

“The fire was really heavy, right inside the front door,” Cortese said. “It spread very fast.”

Vinyl siding on a neighboring house melted from the heat of the blaze.

High winds helped whip the fire and hindered firefighters, but it was reported as knocked down at about 5:30 a.m. Firefighters remained on the scene past 9 a.m. to mop up.

The building, which is between the Oak and Pender streets intersections, did not appear salvageable. The family had set up a large Halloween display on one side, and had also dealt with a fire in a backyard shed several weeks ago, neighbors said.

Santa Croce said the shed fire did not appear related to Friday’s fire, and had an accidental cause. Gibbs said it was related to Halloween decorations, as the residents set up a large display in their yard every year.

Hudson Falls firefighters received assistance from the Fort Edward, Kingsbury, South Glens Falls, South Queensbury, Hartford and Argyle fire departments.

A link to a video of the firefighting efforts can be found at

The address was initially reported to the fire departments as 129 John St,, but police later said the home is at 131 John St.



Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

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