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Fire in Massena ignites box of ammunition

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MASSENA — A box of empty shotgun shells and gunpowder left on a porch led to a minor explosion that caused moderate damage to a Massena house, fire officials say.

A discarded cigarette butt sparked a fire in clothing and a patio swing that ignited the box of ammunition, causing significant damage to the front section of the house at 6A Cornell Ave. The property, owned by David Seguin, is a rental with five occupants, including Beatrice Castle, who occupied the downstairs apartment where the blaze started. Several callers reported an explosion at a house at 10:22 a.m.

The house, between Center and Willow streets, is just across the street from Sullivan’s Office Supply and Violi’s Restaurant.

Alice J. Whirley, who lives on Center Street across from the house, said she saw smoke and flames rising from the porch, and then heard three explosions. The blasts weren’t very loud, she said, but they shot large bursts of flame from the porch. Other neighbors said they slept through the blast, though some were woken by the fire engine’s sirens.

“I was amazed. All I saw was smoke and then all of a sudden it went poof,” Ms. Whirley said. “If anyone had been standing on the porch, they would have been fully engulfed.”

Emily A. Currier, an employee at Sullivan’s Office Supply, said the flames quickly spread from the porch to the living room and the second floor. She said it took “no time” for the flames to engulf the front of the house.

Massena Fire Department Assistant Chief Ted Kyrwanczyk said firefighters responded quickly but the front portion of the two-story house was engulfed in flames by the time they arrived.

According to Mr. Kyrwanczyk, Ms. Castle’s relatives were helping her clear out items that belonged to her husband, who recently died, and left the box of disassembled shotgun ammunition on her front porch. Mr. Kyrwanczyk said the fire did not cause any injuries, and despite the damage, deemed moderate by fire officials, he believes it is possible for the structure to be repaired. “It’s still structurally sound,” he said.

Investigators said Mr. Seguin had the structure insured but the tenants did not have insurance on their belongings.

Massena Fire was assisted at the scene by Massena Village Police, Massena Rescue and Seaway Valley Ambulance. Louisville Fire provided standby at the Massena station. Massena Electric and St. Lawrence Gas crews were also on scene.

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