Fire chief dies after collapsing during house fire

Updated: Dec. 6, 2019 at 7:17 AM EST
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POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - A fire chief died Thursday night after he collapsed at the scene of a house fire in the town of Potsdam.

West Stockholm Fire Chief Robert White responded to the fire, which was just doors away from his own home on Route 11B.

The exact circumstances were not known but firefighters said it was a raging fire they responded to.

"The back of the structure was engulfed -- just trying to get everything set up, get the truck set up," Potsdam Fire Chief Tim Jerome said. "Flames were visible from the rear of the structure."

Jerome and investigators said they could not comment when asked about the fatality.

St. Lawrence County Coroner June Wood said White was pronounced dead at Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

Wayne Haught, the father of homeowner Mary Haught, said he rushed to her home at 414 Route 11B when he heard about the fire. Mary Haught and her children were not home when it broke out.

"All I could see was smoke, just pouring out all over the place," he said. "It's all gone, it looks like, period."

In addition to being West Stockholm fire chief, White was a a deputy fire coordinator for the county for District 3.

The home was surrounded by yellow police tape Thursday night and the scene has been turned over to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.

New York state fire investigators and the county fire investigation team are both looking into the cause and origin of the fire.

The investigation was expected to continue Friday morning. Sheriff’s investigators said more information may be released at that time.