Firefighters investigate ‘suspicious’ fire at historic Susan B. Anthony home


The Rochester Fire Department (RFD) responded at around 1 a.m. to an automatic fire alarm at the residence once owned by Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. The fire burned through the back porch of the house.

The Rochester Fire Investigation Unit has classified the cause of the blaze as suspicious, but the final cause remains undetermined and is still under investigation, the RFD spokesman told CNN, Lieutenant Jeffrey Simpson.

Cameras on the property showed a person standing in the back yard and on the back porch just before the fire started, museum chair Susan B. Anthony and House chair Deborah Hughes told CNN.

“We don’t know why someone would do this, maybe it was a random or intentional act, or maybe it was someone who responded that the museum was a supporter of women’s rights since we are in a controversial era. It’s hard to know for sure, ”said Hughes.

Firefighters moved the artifacts to a safe part of the house and took great care to enter the house, preventing any spread of fire, smoke or water damage from entering the house, according to Simpson.

“The firefighters were so careful with the artifacts, even the moving images while keeping them in the right order,” Hughes said. “They were extremely conscientious in making sure there was not too much water in the house.”

The back porch, which was over 100 years old, was a complete waste and was taken down to secure the structure and keep the house safe, Simpson said.

“The damage to the building was purely on the structure’s exterior back porch,” he added. “There were a few minor extensions to the building because it broke the door, but it was only some water and smoke damage on the first floor.”

The house was built in 1859, and Anthony lived in the house – which also became the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association – from 1866 to 1906, the year of her death.

“The Rochester Fire Department has long understood how important this property is to both our local community and the nation,” Battalion Commander Joseph Luna said in a statement. “An excellent job has been done by the firefighters this evening to limit the effects of the fire on the museum and its exhibits.”

Anthony is known for her work in favor of women’s suffrage and her arrest after voting in the 1872 presidential election when it was illegal for women to do so. She also spoke out against slavery and helped get colleges to admit women.

“Anthony was trying to build a more just society and we just hope what people take away from coming home inspires them to continue with this work,” said Hughes.

The rebel suffragist worked tirelessly for women’s suffrage, but died 14 years before the 19th Amendment – later known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment – was ratified in 1920.

“It is so clear how much this house means to the community, our neighbors and even our firefighters. They were deeply moved not only to take the responsibility seriously, but also to feel that it is a treasure. national, ”said Hughes. “What could have been truly tragic, thanks to the incredible work of the firefighters, was a sad loss but everything will be fine.”

The process of rebuilding a back porch will begin as soon as possible, Hughes said.

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