Gates firefighters were on the scene of a single-story house fire for most of Friday morning. Immediately following the on-set of the fire, the tenant was no where to be found.
“Pretty much the house was fully engulfed,” said John Catalano, a neighbor. “It was coming out of all the windows. The whole neighborhood was just covered with smoke.”
The heavy smoke was coming from this home at 297 Wolcott Avenue. Fire officials say the man renting the home ran to a neighbor's house and asked for an extinguisher around 3 this morning. That man took off in his car when he realized he couldn't put the fire out.
“Who knows where he is. He took off,” Catalano said.
But the flames, originating in the basement, gave firefighters a hard time too.
"It was very tough to get too,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jeff West. “There was a little bit of clutter in the house. The basement stairway had burned through, making it almost impossible to get down there."
Fire crews found barrels full of an unknown chemical in the basement, but neighbors we talked to say they have no idea what could be inside because they didn't really know the man who lives here.
“One of my roommates said he thought the person who just lived there moved out,” said Jessica Mayer, a neighbor, “but we're not really sure."
“I don't know what this guy could have been doing in there,” Catalano said.
Health and hazmat officials have investigated but couldn't get to the 55-gallon barrels in the fire-ravaged basement. Fire officials say they may not know what is in the barrels until the house is demolished or rebuilt. They do know the barrels aren't leaking and aren't posing a risk to people living nearby.