Cause of fatal fire probed

GLOVERSVILLE – City fire officials today were trying to determine the cause of the Fifth Avenue house fire Wednesday night that claimed the life of a 41-year-old man.

An autopsy on the deceased man may have a bearing on the investigation, officials said.

The city Fire Department, the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Gloversville Police Department are investigating the fire.

Meanwhile, an effort to organize relief for the displaced victims of the fire is being headed by Mayor Dayton King and the Forresters Club. The American Red Cross also is helping the family.

Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam said this morning she can’t say yet what was to blame for the fire at 34 Fifth Ave., which claimed the life of Donald E. Larimore, who was visiting the residence, and injured resident Marcus E. VanSlyke, 66.

She said VanSlyke was still at Nathan Littauer Hospital Hospital recuperating this morning. She didn’t know his condition.

Police said Larimore lived in Gloversville, but police did not have an address for him.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Whitman-Putnam said. “We are waiting on an autopsy to be completed.”

The fire chief referred autopsy questions to police, who would only say it was being conducted today at Albany Medical Center Hospital by pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica.

The Fire Department issued a news release Thursday that indicated firefighters were dispatched to the house fire at 9:02 p.m. Wednesday. The residence is a two-story, one-family residence, and there were two adults and three children in the house at the time of the fire.

Charlene Ligon of Gloversville, aunt of Jamie VanSlyke, who lived at the Fifth Avenue address, said today Jamie had left the house right before the fire. Ligon said Jamie’s three children, Keaira Rivera, 12, Kolten VanSlyke, 4, and Jaylee VanSlyke, 2, were at home at the time.

Ligon said the children were home with their grandfather, Marcus VanSlyke, and Larimore.

Ligon said Jamie now is staying with her and the children are staying with other relatives.

“Jamie’s been with me since last night,” Ligon said. “She’s sicker than a dog and pretty exhausted.”

The fire severely damaged the first and second floors and the attic of the single-family home, said Whitman-Putnam.

She said there was extensive fire, heat, smoke and water damage.

Officials said firefighters were told upon arrival that everyone was out of the residence. Firefighters encountered a “heavy fire condition” with fire coming from two first-floor windows on the north side of the structure and a heavy smoke condition from the attic area and eaves, the news release said.

Firefighters entered the home and found Larimore, who was removed by firefighters and treated by the Ambulance Service of Fulton County.

The news release indicated he succumbed to injuries during the fire.

The release said VanSlyke, who was outside the residence when firefighters arrived, was transported to the hospital.

National Grid was summoned to remove live power lines that had burned away from the structure and fell into the street. The Fire Department secured other utilities.

Mayor King today said the community is rallying to support the VanSlyke family in the aftermath of the fire.

On Facebook, the mayor’s page noted the family is looking for any clothing donations for the three children. The clothing sizes are 2-3 girl, 12 girl and 5-7 boy.

“What we’re doing at my office [at City Hall] is we put out a basket and we’re using the couch and other areas to collect items,” King said.

The mayor said to donate to the VanSlyke family, the public can send checks to: Jamie VanSlyke, in care of Charlene Ligon, to 44 Broad St., Gloversville, NY 12078.

King said he may honor the oldest surviving daughter Tuesday at the Common Council meeting because she was responsible for getting others out of the house.

“Our community will lift this family back on their feet,” the mayor posted on Facebook.

King said the Forresters Club is also serving as a drop-off site for the family.

Forresters Manager Linda Dolan said today it has been a wonderful effort by the club and other volunteers to help the VanSlykes.

“The club here is all about the community,” she said.

Dolan said there has been a tremendous outpouring of clothes and other items such as toiletries, toys, shoes, boots and Easter baskets for the children. She said people can continue to bring in as many items as they want. The club, located at 213 E. State St. Ext., Gloversville, will store items in its barn.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at