Fire claimed another notable house in the Thousand Islands, this time on the north shore of Grindstone Island. A call was placed on VHF Channel 16 to the US Coast Guard by an alert sailor anchored near Camelot Island at 10:30 pm on Friday, 8/31/18. The call described a burning structure on Grindstone Island and was monitored by Clayton Fire and Rescue. This gave them a brief head start to prepare before the formal dispatch was announced.
The response was led by the Clayton Fire and Rescue (“Last Chance” captained by Jerod Wagoner and Dick Withington’s “STORMY”) and TIERS (Thousand Island Emergency Rescue Service), with assists from fire departments from Gananoque, Wellesley Island, and Alexandria Bay and involved roughly 40 personnel. The fire departments departed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but Last Chance captained by Justin Taylor had to return to fight a “re-kindle” after daybreak. The fire department left the smoldering house again near 10 am, to prepare for other emergencies that could occur on the Labor Day weekend. However, they left their hoses in place since rising southwest winds were likely to re-kindle the remaining structure later in the day. They did indeed return on several occasions and a contractor was called to raze the remains of the burning house in the afternoon.
The water’s edge on the north shore of Grindstone is not the original location of the house, having been built in 1880, in the interior of the island by the Taylor family. According to Dave Taylor, in the 1950’s, the original home was cut in half and moved to the shore using logs for rolling and 5 tractors for pulling. Over the years, the house had been expanded and renovated, and was undergoing floor refinishing work in the time leading up to the fire. They say “a house is not a home”, but for this Taylor family summer home, at least a big piece of their home is missing today.
Fire, often with its diabolical companion, wind, are a well-know menace to life in the thousand islands. Destruction by fire has been the fate of many Thousand Island structures including, countless cottages, estates, castles and many of the grand hotels from the Gilded Age (New Frontenac, Thousand Island Park Hotel, Columbian Hotel, and Pullman House). The fire in 2014, that destroyed “The Guzzle”, the volunteer fire department, post office and other concerns in Thousand Island Park reminds us that fire is a present danger, and not only a historical risk. It is a good idea for islanders to consider fire risks in everything they do.
By Dane Zabriski
Like many of us, Dane Zabriskie was shaped by his family, education, profession, and the St. Lawrence River, where he has summered annually for more than 45 years.
Dane also is put to work each month as one of our loyal proof-readers! His work is much appreciated!