A fire tore through a house—which is part residence and part school—at 2223 Maple Avenue in Cortlandt Wednesday morning.
The fire was reported around 11:10 a.m. Two adults and four preschoolers who were inside the structure, in the downstairs area that houses The Key Institute for Learning Strategies, evacuated when they smelled smoke. They gathered under a shady tree across the street, where teacher Cindy Arcery read them a book while they waited for their parents.
"You know, they were really good about it," Arcery said when asked how she and the youngsters handled the situation. "They stayed calm, we stayed away from the smoke. Kids are really resilient and they were very well-behaved. I said, 'I can't do anything about that,' so let me just focus on the kids, stay calm and let them know everyone is safe."
Arcery and owner Marcia Royce—who told Patch she was "numb" as smoke continue to pour out of the house after the flames had been extinguished—watched firefighters battle the blaze for more than hour.
Shortly after exiting Royce ran back into the building to retrieve some school supplies and to grab her cat, Prinnie. Unfortunately the cat wouldn't come when her owner called, so Royce is hoping she found a way out.
About 70 firefighters responded to battle the blaze. There was mutual aid from a handful of local departments. Troopers from the Cortlandt barracks of the New York State Police were also at the scene.
The Cause and Origin Team is investigating the fire, which started in the kitchen area, according to Deputy Chief Joe Mayer of the Lake Mohegan Fire Department.
"There's nothing left," Mayer told Patch, adding that the property was destroyed.
Maple Avenue was still closed at Hill and Dale Road at about 1 p.m. Water was dripping in doorways and also streaming into the street.
Check back with Patch soon for a video with Royce. Editor's note: This story was originally posted at about 1 p.m. and updated later in the afternoon.