Authorities: Child with lighter started fire

GLOVERSVILLE -A child using a lighter started the fire that killed a man at a Fifth Avenue home March 20, the city Fire Department announced Wednesday.

A “young child” used the lighter to set a blanket on fire in the first-floor living room, a news release said.

The investigation also found only one smoke alarm was in the structure at 34 Fifth Ave. and it was inoperable because it had no battery, officials said.

The fire claimed the life of Donald E. Larimore, 41, who was visiting the residence, and injured resident Marcus E. VanSlyke, 66.

An autopsy conducted Friday at Albany Medical Center Hospital showed Larimore died from asphyxia due to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide intoxication, a news release said.

Larimore, of Gloversville, who was a friend of the family, was found on the first floor of the residence in the kitchen by firefighters.

Firefighters were dispatched to the fire at 9:02 p.m. after a neighbor reported the fire at 9:01 p.m., officials said.

Two adults and three children were in the two-story, one-family residence at the time of the fire.

The fire severely damaged the first and second floors and the attic of the single-family home, said Fire Chief Beth 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 heavy smoke from the attic area and eaves, a news release said.

Firefighters entered the home and found Larimore, who was removed by firefighters.

Charlene Ligon of Gloversville, mother of Jamie Ormanion, who lived at the Fifth Avenue address, said Jamie had left the house before the fire.

Ligon said Jamie’s three children, ages 12, 4 and 2, were at home at the time of the fire.

A?news release said VanSlyke, who was outside the residence when firefighters arrived, was transported to Nathan Littauer Hospital.

He was released from the hospital Saturday after recovering from smoke inhalation, said Ligon, who added some of VanSlyke’s hair was burned.

One of the children in the house at the time of the fire, 12-year-old Keaira Rivera, was honored as a hero at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting for helping the other children out of the house safely.

Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said this morning the child who started the fire was younger than 12.

“We are still investigating and we’re investigating the possibility of charges coming forward,” VanDeusen said. “We are not investigating the possibility of any charges against the juveniles.”

Whitman-Putnam said the adults were in the kitchen area when the fire started.

VanDeusen said alcohol was a factor in the investigation of the fire. He would provide no specifics.

Ligon said the only item salvageable from the fire was a grill the family used, but the grill has since been stolen from the property.

“The firefighters encountered a heavy volume of fire upon their arrival and worked hard not only to rescue Mr. Larimore, but to protect the neighboring structures from damage as well,” Whitman-Putnam said in a news release. “I commend their efforts and I also want to thank the residents of Fifth Avenue for their patience and cooperation in both the fire suppression and investigation processes.”

“We continue to unfortunately find at tragedies like this one smoke alarms that have failed to be properly maintained,” said Paul D. Martin, chief of inspections and investigations for the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control. “You are more than four times as likely to perish in a fire without a working smoke alarm.”

Last week’s fatal fire was the second fire this month caused by a child.

A fire in a Main Street house March 10 injured an occupant and a firefighter and displaced a family of seven. The cause of that fire was traced to a child playing with a lighter, Whitman-Putnam said.

Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at