Updated: Enfield barn-apartments burn; occupants safe

As they fought it: Enfield firefighters battle the flames at 363 Hines Road, Saturday. (Photo courtesy of EVFC.)

by Robert Lynch; June 30, 2024, updated July 1, 2024

[Note: As of Tuesday evening, July 2nd, Enfield Fire officials could not yet officially determine the fire’s cause.]

A major fire on Hines Road at mid-morning Saturday fully engulfed and destroyed the converted barn-turned-residence of John Rancich, a prominent Enfield property owner and landlord.  The cause of that fire remains under investigation.

Flames from the mid-morning blaze spread quickly as firefighters from Enfield and multiple departments labored futilely during a severe rain and wind storm, hampered in part by limited supplies of water. Rancich and residents of three apartments in the building escaped uninjured.  One firefighter battling the blaze sustained injuries serious enough to require brief hospitalization.  Two more firefighters were treated for their injuries at the scene.

The leveled property is at 363 Hines Road, Enfield.  Rancich was reportedly not at home when the fire was first detected.

What little remains; the fire scene late Sunday morning.

In an updated statement issued late Sunday, Enfield Fire Chief Jamie Stevens reported, “The hospitalized firefighter was transported to the hospital for minor treatment and released from the Emergency Department shortly after.”  The Chief continued, “All personnel with reported injuries were cleared to return to work before Enfield cleared the fire scene.”

“At 10:41 (AM), Enfield Fire and Bangs Ambulance were requested to a reported fully involved structure fire,” the Enfield Volunteer Fire Company (EVFC) reported in a statement posted late Saturday.

“Deputy Chief, Bailey Stevens, was the first to arrive on scene followed shortly thereafter by 661 Fire Chief, Jamie Stevens. 661 Fire Chief was notified by dispatch while en route that the police officers on scene reported a fully involved structure fire.” Chief Jamie Stevens stated in his Sunday update.  

“The Chief requested mutual aid from Trumansburg, Newfield, and Mecklenburg,” the Fire Chief continued.  “Upon arrival Deputy Chief, Bailey Stevens, confirmed the fully involved structure fire and requested mutual aid specifically water supply/tankers from Danby and West Danby. All companies listed were present after request.” 

Stevens also corrected earlier anecdotal reports that had suggested a tenant’s puppy may have first alerted sleeping victims to the danger and that the animal was later lost to the flames.

“The tenants reported that a son had woken to the smell of smoke and woken the father,” Chief Stevens said late Sunday.  “That is when they began evacuating. No puppy was reported to EVFC until later in the day.”

“We were informed that the puppy was last seen running into the field nearby and thus unaccounted for during our operations by the puppy’s owner,” Chief Stevens later statement reported.  “A Facebook post made Sunday stated the puppy had returned unharmed,” the Chief related.

Fire officials did not name the building’s owner or tenants.  However this writer, based on his personal knowledge and his on-scene inspection, confirmed Rancich as the building’s owner and its principal occupant.  Names of the tenants were not immediately disclosed.

The EVFC’s statements declined to indicate the cause of the fire or whether it might have been affected by the stormy weather.  One neighbor said fire investigators remained on the scene until at least 1 AM Sunday attempting to identify the fire’s origin.

Social media postings Sunday indicated firefighters were hampered by bad weather in fighting the Rancich fire, as they were by the need to haul water to the scene. Noxious fumes emitted by some of the building’s burning contents also complicated firefighting efforts.  The barn’s metal roof posed problems as well.

What’s left is only what wouldn’t burn; a metal sculpture outside the Rancich barn.

“Having a good water supply in rural areas simply isn’t guaranteed,” Enfield Board of Fire Commissioners Chair (and former Enfield Fire Chief) Greg Stevenson said Sunday.   “It takes knowledge and hard work to supply many thousands of gallons of water for a large fire.  I appreciate all of the companies and their members that came together to make this work,” Stevenson added.

Newfield, Trumansburg, Mecklenburg, Danby and West Danby Fire Companies provided mutual aid to assist Enfield firefighters Saturday morning. 

Enfield’s Fire Company also credits Bangs Ambulance, the Red Cross, the Tompkins County Sheriffs’ Department, the Tompkins County Fire Coordinator and the Tompkins County Highway Department. 

The Rancich residence, visited by this Town Councilperson in recent years during his various campaigns, was well decorated with a rustic interior.  It contained stuffed game and other memorabilia.  Neighbors report a large concrete vault on the barn’s premises reportedly protected some of Rancich’s possessions.

The Saturday fire totally destroyed the barn-apartment complex and all its remaining contents.  It also destroyed one vehicle seen Sunday parked outside.

How to help: Enfield neighbors have begun efforts on social media to secure clothing and other items to aid the displaced victims.

A donation table has been established for clothing and food supplies at Stoneybrook townhouses in Enfield Center.  Donations may be dropped off at the Stoneybrook office or at the apartment of BrennySue Worrell Riley, apartment #11 in the complex. “They lost everything, so food items could help (as well as clothing),”  Riley stated Saturday.