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Amenia fire takes family home

AMENIA — A significant fire all but destroyed a two-story home at the top of DeLavergne Hill in Amenia on Friday, April 8.The fire started at about 2:30 p.m., according to Amenia Fire Chief Shawn Howard, and quickly spread to the rest of the house, owned by the Parker family, which has operated a horse stable business on the property for decades. Ten fire departments were dispatched to the scene from both New York and Connecticut, and Route 44 was blocked off for several hours while firefighters fought the fire with ladder trucks and hoses. Firefighters were on the scene for nearly six hours.“It was a tough one,” Howard acknowledged. “The fire got up in the attic and just took right off on us. I kept looking at the roof and the smoke was getting worse and worse. I pulled everybody out at one point because I didn’t know if it was going to flash over or whether the roof would collapse.”Howard thanked all of the fire companies — Amenia, Wassaic, Dover, Millbrook, Union Vale, Stanfordville, Millerton, Lakeville, Sharon and Kent — for their help and support during the fire.Joe Parker Stables, as the farm is called, has been in business since the 1960s. The property was purchased in 1965, business owner Joe Parker estimated, and the house that caught on fire was built soon after.There was nothing on the property when it was first purchased but a small house that has since collapsed, a fraction of the size of the dwelling that was later built, Parker said.“We started from scratch here,” he said early the following week, standing on the building’s porch amid soot and char, crinkled pieces of metal siding and broken glass.Parker described his mother and father as having come from the poor neighborhoods of Baltimore, an impoverished African-American family that nevertheless rose to prominence in the horse training industry, collecting awards and trophies.The house that burned on April 8 was built specifically by the Parker children (there are six of them) for their mother and father.“This house,” Parker said looking up at it. “We’ve shared this home with all our relatives at some time or another. Brothers, nephews, grandchildren. No one was ever turned away from here who asked or ever needed help. And it remains our home base.”Parker said that from what he understands, a piece of wood burning in a fireplace downstairs exploded and sent sparks flying out into the room, where they caught a nearby couch on fire. According to the assessor, he added, the house is totalled.Parker’s brother, Bernard, and his family were living in the home; Joe Parker lives in Dover Plains. Bernard and his brother, Leslie, are the main managers of the farm, but Parker stressed that it was a family business that everyone was a part of.The family does have fire insurance, but Parker said that the future of the mortgaged home and whether it is to be rebuilt will be an ongoing discussion with the family and the bank.The other major structure on the property is the stable barn, which holds more than 40 horses. That building was untouched by the fire and no horses were injured.“If there’s one indication of our parents’ legacy, it’s the barn,” Parker said. “The material things in life have been charred with fire and water, destroyed. But nothing can destroy the spirit of a family that’s lived, created, played and enjoyed this land. The physical structure has burnt, but they haven’t burnt what this home has meant to us.”Parker called the fire “a turning point” in the history of the property and the business, which has seen better days. He said that it is his intention to continue the business and rebuild from here.“It’s been difficult times in terms of the economy, but it is my wish and dream that it always will be Joe Parker Stables.”

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