PERU — During the last few decades, Cecile McCarthy has opened her home and heart to foster children and aging adults in need of care.The 83-year-old has built a lifetime of cherished memories and friendships inside her two-story Pleasant Street home, where she watched about 38 foster children and countless adult clients pass through the doors of her blue and maroon family home.And now, after years of helping others, McCarthy will be getting help from her relatives after a raging fire tore through her home Saturday morning, destroying almost everything in its path."(My client) said there was something smoking inside," the Peru grandmother said midday Saturday as firefighters worked to douse the fierce flames still eating through the roof."She wouldn't let me go in. She saved me because I would have tried to go in and put it out myself."McCarthy had just come back from her daughter's house next door when her client Gloria Menard met her at the door and said the house was on fire.Within minutes, thick black smoke was billowing into the overcast sky as the bright orange flames began climbing through the house.Her other client, Ralph Fequa, and her apartment tenant, Terry Hicks, were not home when the fire sparked around 10 a.m.
"I was delivering for Apple Blossom Florist when I saw the smoke. I said 'God that looks like my place,'" said Hicks, who rushed to her apartment when she saw smoke rising from the flower shop down the road."I had just moved in about a month ago. And it looks like I've lost everything."A passerby and a next-door neighbor Steve Mack called in the blaze, prompting volunteers from Peru, Morrisonville, Keeseville, South Plattsburgh and Rescue Hose No. 5 to rush to the 72 Pleasant St. home to battle the rapidly spreading fire.Crews from the Plattsburgh City, AuSable and District No. 3 fire departments stood by at the Peru, Keeseville and South Plattsburgh stations during the blaze."You could see the smoke billowing through the window. I went running for the phone calling 911," said Mack. "The pressure blew the front door open."Though firefighters responded to the blaze within minutes, the home was a complete loss.Peru First Assistant Chief Kathleen Roach said past renovations and additions to the home made it more difficult for volunteers to extinguish the sweltering flames.
"The fire department was here immediately. It was just full of black smoke. You could see the flames all on the side of it," said Pat Folsom, who lives down the road from McCarthy.Volunteers remained at the home for several hours into the afternoon."(The volunteers) did a great job under the difficult conditions," said Roach, adding that crews remained at the home until about 3 p.m.Some firefighters were then called back to the house around 7 p.m. for a rekindle.Officials were continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze, but believed it originated in the home's lower level."It looks like everyone lost everything," said McCarthy's son, Jason."The house has so many memories. It's just so tragic, I still can't even believe it. She's just heartbroken," said her daughter-in-law Lisa McCarthy."My husband and I bought the house about 50 years ago. I've watched so many kids grow up in this house. And I've been taking care of the elderly there for the last 30 years," said McCarthy.
"It'll all work out though."