Firefighters quickly knocked out a smoky basement fire at 1 Clark Court late Monday evening, but the fire had already crept up through the lath and plaster walls of the 1906 vintage home and required aggressive action on all three upper floors to subdue it. E. Payson Clark Jr., who has lived in the home since 1977 and is now in his 80’s, fled the fire along with an attendant; both were unharmed. The house, however, sustained considerable interior damage.
“It’s not a pleasant scene – coming here and seeing my birth house in shambles,” said Edward (Ted) Clark (III), who had driven over from Long Island.
The fire was called in at 7:45 pm on December 19, as the temperatures dipped below freezing. With Larchmont’s Tower Ladder 30 out of service for repairs, Town of Mamaroneck sent over its Ladder 19 truck to assist. Two dozen Larchmont firefighters and 15 from the Town of Mamaroneck worked for over three hours to be sure all hot spots had been located and doused. Village of Mamaroneck firefighters stood by in Larchmont’s fire headquarters. In the mop up, Larchmont’s Department of Public Works arrived with a large shipment of salt to manage the ice left from hosing down the fire under subzero conditions.
The Village and Town firefighters “drill together all through the year,” noted Deputy Chief Tom Broderick, “and it pays off when we have a fire like this.”
“It was a bad fire,” said Larchmont Trustee Mike Wiener, who is a volunteer firefighter and was at the event. Deputy Chief Broderick concurred, “It was a hard fire – but a quick stop.” Westchester County’s “cause and origin” investigative team has ruled the cause of the fire to be “accidental but undetermined.”
Contributing to the fire’s destructiveness was the home’s wood-frame “balloon construction,” explained Larchmont Deputy Chief PJ Abrahamson. “There’s nothing in the way” to stop the fire he said, describing the hazard of having the walls of one floor communicate directly with those above, a design found in millions of older homes.
The house, built close to 100 years ago, was originally designated 38 Monroe Street. “We decided to change it to 1 Clark Court because of our names and because the front door faces Clark Court,” said Ted Clark. There were other changes made, but very little remodeling that would impede the fire moving through the walls.