A 47-year-old Town of Alexander man who agreed to house-sit for his hospitalized friend and neighbor died after being pulled unconscious from the burning former one-room schoolhouse late Sunday night, Genesee County sheriff’s officials reported.
Scott A. Cramer, the only person inside 11000 Sand Pit Road, was pulled from the cottage by Alexander volunteer firefighters and taken to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities late Monday still weren’t sure whether the homeowner’s cat, which was being cared for by Cramer, made it out safely or died in the fire.
Genesee County records show that the small home was an 844-square-foot cottage that dates back to 1850, when it was built as a one-room schoolhouse.
The cobblestone structure, with a small wood-frame addition in front, had two possible exits: the front door and a basement trap door, authorities said.
But flames and smoke in the front of the home blocked Cramer’s first-floor exit, and authorities don’t know whether he considered the other one.
“I don’t even know if he knew it was there,” County Fire Coordinator Timothy Yaeger said of the trap door Monday.
A volunteer firefighter driving by the house, a responding sheriff’s deputy and two neighbors attempted to get inside or put out the fire with a fire extinguisher and a garden hose, Genesee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Jerome E. Brewster said. But their efforts weren’t successful.
The first firefighters responding to a 911 call at 10:07 p.m. found flames showing in the front of the house. Those firefighters searched the home, found Cramer about 12 feet from the front door and pulled him out.
“He was seriously burned, and he was unconscious when he was brought out,” Brewster said.
Both Brewster and Yaeger cited the quick work of volunteer firefighters.
“They made a quick knockdown of the fire and a quick search,” Yaeger said. “They brought him out to safety, but it was pretty much too late.”
A preliminary investigation points to an electrical cause of the fire, possibly an improperly installed electrical panel, sheriff’s officials stated. Fire officials provided a preliminary damage estimate of $20,000.
Smoke detectors were found in the home, but authorities don’t know whether they were functioning.
Assisting Alexander at the scene were members of the Attica, Bethany, Darien and Town of Batavia volunteer companies, along with Mercy EMS Ambulance.