Emergency crews in Greene County were called at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 29, with reports that a home was on fire in the Village of Catskill, located on Main Street, according to State Police.
By the time firefighters arrived, flames could be seen on all three floors, Catskill Fire Company officials said.
At one point, several firefighters evacuated an upper story when it became clear the structure was about to collapse. Running out of time, one firefighter was forced to jump from a second-floor window onto a porch roof, according to fire officials.
“Just as he made the roof and the Hudson chief and Catskill members exited, a loud explosion rocked the home and was heard and felt thru the village,” the department said on Facebook.
According to investigators, the explosion was caused by several oxygen tanks that were inside the home. The blast caused a portion of the home’s rear to collapse.
“If not for the experience of the Hudson chief knowing he had to watch the stairwell for egress and sound the alarm, this may have turned horrific fast,” a department spokesperson said.
Firefighters were eventually able to re-enter the home, where they found 74-year-old Harry Braker dead, according to police.
“Firefighters all over the globe train hard to give the public we serve the best chance possible,” the Catskill Fire Company said in a statement. “We are truly saddened that the situation did not have a good ending for a member of the community.”
New York State Police and the Greene County Fire Investigation Team are working to determine what sparked the initial fire, though troopers said the cause appears to be accidental.
Click here to follow Daily Voice Southwest Dutchess and receive free news updates.