Fireplace Causes Whately Fatal Fire
State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan and Whately Fire Chief John S. Hannum said the cause of the early morning fire at 6 State Road in Whately was a malfunction of the fireplace. The fire took the lives of Sonia Golonka, 64, and her 94-year old mother, Mary Golonka. The two elderly women lived in the home. The fire started underneath the floor of an old prefabricated fireplace where, over time, the fireproof brick had cracked and the metal fireplace rusted and decayed. This allowed heat and possibly sparks from the woodstove and fireplace to come in contact with structural members.
Chief Hannum said, “Whately is such a small tight-knit community that a tragedy like this touches us all. Today I have not only lost two members of my community, but two friends as well.”
Coan said, “This tragedy underscores the need to have our heating appliances – whether it’s a chimney, a woodstove, a propane gas or oil fueled furnace – checked by a licensed professional annually. Regular maintenance of heating systems is key to preventing fires.”
The fire was jointly investigated by State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, State Police assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and the Whately Fire Department. Assistance was received from the Whately Police Department and Code Compliance Unit in the Office of the State Fire Marshal.