HAMLET OF WALLKILL – One firefighter suffered minor injuries and seven tenants were displaced Thursday night by a fire that ripped through the former home of the Countryside Cafe on Wallkill Avenue.
The building had two apartments, one in the rear and one on the second floor.
Wallkill fire Chief Nick Walker said the first alarm was sounded around 8:15 p.m.
“There was heavy fire in the rear when I arrived,” Walker said Friday.
Initial reports that people were trapped in the building proved unfounded, Walker said. All seven tenants made it out safely. One firefighter was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Walker said a dog perished in the fire.
The cafe had been closed for some time, but the storefront was being renovated for a new tenant, a Mexican restaurant.
Tony Martino, the proprietor of My Father Sam’s Barber shop across the street, was holding a practice session in his shop with his band, Mustangs 65, which plays songs from the ’50s to the ’70s, when the fire broke out.
“There were flames like 50 feet up in the air,” Martino said. “Smoke was really billowing out of there. It went up real quick.”
Walker said the cause of the fire remains under investigation by Ulster County officials.
In addition to Wallkill firefighters, the Shawangunk Valley, Walden, Walker Valley, Plattekill, Modena and Coldenham fire companies responded to assist at the scene. About 50 firefighters were there, Walker estimated. Cronomer Valley and Gardiner firefighters were standing by in Wallkill’s firehouse.
Martino had feared the building would be totally consumed by the fire, but the structure appeared salvageable on Friday morning. Walker estimated the building was about a 50 percent loss.
The last firefighters left the scene around 1 a.m.