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State, Auburn officials investigate Barber Street blaze
State fire investigators and detectives from the Auburn Police Department were investigating the fire that damaged a city apartment house Wednesday night.
Auburn firefighters responded to the fire at 20 Barber St. after the first call came in at about 6:54 p.m. The blaze was located in a back stairway of the structure, which houses two apartments.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation Thursday. Auburn Police Capt. James Moore said that the APD's investigation was opened due to comments made by a resident at the fire scene.
Auburn Fire Department Assistant Chief Ed Sherman said Thursday morning that the fire shot up the back wall of both apartments to the structure's attic, causing significant damage. Between water, smoke and fire damage, both apartments are currently unlivable, Sherman said, but not a total loss.
The fire displaced the three adults living in the upstairs apartment and the two adults and two children living downstairs, Sherman said. There were no injuries. The Red Cross was asked to provide assistance to the structure's residents.
Firefighters were on the scene for more than two hours. New York State Electric and Gas was called in to shut off utilities.
Osborne Street fire that displaced six Auburn families ruled accidental
AUBURN — Six families were displaced by a fire at an apartment house in Auburn Thursday morning.
Residents and neighbors called the fire in just before 9 a.m., reporting smoke coming out from the top of the building, dispatchers said. First responders arrived at the three-story 111 Osborne St. apartment house within five minutes of the first call. Firefighters located the second-alarm blaze in the building's attic.
Occupants in the 1950 building at the time of the fire were evacuated and six families — at least 12 adults and children in total — were displaced. No injuries were reported for residents or firefighters, dispatchers and Auburn Fire Department said, and The Red Cross was called to assist the displaced families.
Dispatchers said that the fire was under control at 9:47 a.m. And AFD Assistant Fire Chief Mark Fritz said the investigation was completed and the scene was cleared around 5 p.m.
The cause of the fire was ruled as accidental and electrical in nature, he said.
The damage caused by the fire itself was confined to the attic, Fritz said. He said the building was turned over to the property manager for repairs and noted that it will be inhabitable again.
"I don't know how bad it is," Fritz said, adding there was "minor smoke and water damage" in addition to the fire damage.
'Absolutely the best': Auburn's marching band competes in state championship
SYRACUSE — The Auburn Maroon Vanguard Marching Band crowned its season with its best performance of the year on the Carrier Dome field Sunday afternoon.
Auburn's marching band was one of more than 50 schools to perform in the Dome on Sunday during the 2018 New York State Field Band Conference Championship Show. The first performance began at 8 a.m., while the last was scheduled for nearly 10 p.m.
"In general ... much of our district has been very close this year," said Auburn High School Director of Bands Michael Miller. Expecting bands in Large School Division 3 — which Auburn is in — to be very close in score, Miller compared the anticipated scores to a photo finish for a 50-yard dash.
"It just comes down to the judges' opinions on that particular day," Miller said. “It should be a good finish.”
Miller explained that Auburn's show, titled "Rage Against the Machine," had three different songs that were representative of the Industrial Revolution, education reform and the French Revolution. All arranged by Miller, the band opened with “Raging Machines” by Brian Balmages then moved to “Another Brick in the Wall” by Roger Waters before closing with “On My Own” and “Do You Hear the People Sing” by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.
"It was absolutely the best performance of the year," Miller said after Auburn's performance. "It was a great way to finish the season."
He said the “planets were all in alignment” in terms of the band's music and visual aspects. Immediately following the show, he wasn't sure where Auburn stood in terms of scoring but said “the numbers only mean so much” and what's more important is "the community, the family aspect of what we do."
"I think it went really well," drum major Vienna McCall, a senior at Auburn High School, agreed. "There was a lot of stuff that we did really well here that we haven't done great on before and we improved so much."
"The tears were rolling," said fellow senior and drum major Jenna Nila following the performance. She added that she was "sad and happy, excited, nervous — everything. But there's no feeling to just stepping out on that floor, honestly."
"So many emotions just come at once,” added McCall. “Just seeing everyone in the stands and being on the field, it's crazy."
Nila added that the marching band is “lucky” to be able to walk out on the Dome floor every year to compete in state championships.
Auburn's marching band, the smallest in their division, ended up placing seventh in the Large School Division 3 with a final score of 72.5 out of a perfect score of 100. Division scores ranged from 71.15 for eighth place to 83.25 for first place.
Without question, Miller said, the band can go home knowing they gave it their all.
"We gave it everything," Nila said of the performance. "It may have ended, and it's bitter-sweet because, you know, we'll never perform all together ... but even after the season's over, we have our Vanguard family which is a nice thing."
Creative cakes: Decorated baker opens business in Skaneateles
SKANEATELES — Baking isn't just baking for Stacey Lorraine. It's a three-tiered tower of artistry, engineering and toil.
Lorraine, 31, is the owner of The Cake Shop, a new custom cake studio located in the former Creekside Books & Coffee in Skaneateles. But it's not the kind of place you walk in with a sweet tooth and walk out with sweets: Lorraine's cakes are made to order only. By phone, email or appointment, customers ask for a specialty cake and Lorraine finds a way to create it. It could be a birthday cake with edible figurines of the cast of "Frozen," a foot-tall replica of the Iron Throne from "Game of Thrones" or a semi-naked wedding cake with vibrant rose bouquets and textured buttercream.
One look at Lorraine's cakes explains her business model. They're intricately sculpted and decorated, taking several hours to realize. She makes those figurines and other ornaments by hand, often with Rice Krispies Treats because they're malleable and lightweight. She makes those bouquets by hand, too, using veiners and cutters to produce sugar flowers as realistic as possible. The only part she doesn't make are the yellow stamens — "I would lose my mind if I had to make a million of those," she said — and the only parts you can't eat are the odd wire or stick for structural support.
"As much as I love making things that are beautiful, I also want them to taste great," Lorraine said in her studio Oct. 25.
So Lorraine only has time to bake a few cakes a week, depending on how complicated they are. And for now, she balances that time in the kitchen with time setting it up. She moved into her Fennell Street studio a few months ago, so she's still awaiting municipal approval to install plumbing for its sink, which lies disconnected on the hardwood floor. She plans to install a bathroom as well.
Though it's not a retail bakery, Lorraine also has plans to bring people into her studio. After wedding season concludes, she'd like to teach holiday cooking classes on gingerbread houses, yule logs and sugar cookies. Eventually, she hopes to hire at least one assistant to help in the kitchen and maybe the office. At the very least, Lorraine would appreciate having another mouth in the studio.
"The hardest part of my job, working alone, is that I have to taste everything," she said. "Sometimes when you're mixing buttercream at 9 a.m. you're like, 'I don't want to taste any more frosting.'"
Lorraine moved to Skaneateles a few years ago because her husband, Alex Langley, has family there. Her journey to The Cake Shop began while she was growing up in the Washington, D.C., area. After years of baking with her mother and building gingerbread houses, Lorraine decided to enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Since the school requires six months of experience, Lorraine first worked at Stella's Bakery in Maryland. After graduating, her passion for specialty cakes took her to New York City and then Seattle, where she worked under Kristina Serfass at Baked.
It was during her three years at Baked that Lorraine and the shop won a Lego-themed episode of the Food Network's "Cake Wars" in 2017 with a s'mores cake featuring four tiers of outdoor scenery encircling a park ranger character in the toy's distinct yellow style. Lorraine was no stranger to taking her cake talents to TV, having also competed on "Food Network Challenge" in 2011.
It was also at Baked that Lorraine made the Iron Throne cake, which she called one of her most difficult creations. Commissioned by "Game of Thrones" network HBO, the cake required 12 hours of cutting, embossing and layering the silver swords that comprise the throne. Such challenges are a rewarding break from the repetition of "Frozen" and "Star Wars" cakes, Lorraine said.
"It's a very fun process of figuring it out and seeing it come together," she said. "There's always a point in the middle where you're like, 'Oh god, is this going to come out like it's supposed to?'"
Because the field of specialty cakes is always evolving, Lorraine makes a point of taking a class every year to stay on top of the latest techniques. She'll go to Denver in a week to learn about sculpting and using armatures to build gravity-defying cakes. Such education is important because the popularity of cooking on social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest can inflate people's expectations, Lorraine said. Unrealistic as they may be, she continued, she can mostly meet them. She also maintains her own accounts on those platforms to market her business.
Another way Lorraine keeps The Cake Shop fresh is her flavor list. Though her cakes and frostings always come in standards like chocolate and vanilla, she likes to regularly introduce unusual new ones like apple pie a la mode (spice cake with fresh apples and vanilla bean buttercream) and the Elvis (peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache and banana buttercream with candied bacon).
As an alternative to cake, Lorraine offers a dessert bar with cupcakes, cookies and cake bites, which are 1-by-1-inch squares of cake with stakes through them for tidy eating at events like weddings. She also works with the Skaneateles Bakery to stock the bar with doughnuts. For Lorraine, the bar is yet another ingredient in a business that's only just beginning to take shape.
"It's a really fun way to be artistic and work in the culinary world," she said. "Every week is different."
Skaneateles man sentenced for DWI crash in Auburn he claims not to remember
AUBURN — A Skaneateles man was sentenced in Cayuga County Court Tuesday for a crime he previously said he doesn't remember committing.
In September 2017, Michael DeMarco, 40, went through a DWI checkpoint in Auburn and then fled from the police — initiating a short, high-speed chase which ended in a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of Arterial East and Seymour Street.
A 26-year-old woman and her 6-year-old son were both transported to Auburn Community Hospital and treated for injuries from the accident. DeMarco was transported to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for a head injury. Due to sustaining a traumatic brain injury, DeMarco said that he didn't remember the incident, when he pleaded guilty in August.
At the time of his plea, Judge Thomas Leone outlined his charges as first-degree vehicular assault, a class D felony; second-degree fleeing from police, a class E felony; and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a misdemeanor. DeMarco's blood alcohol content was .15 percent and he was going about 25 mph above the speed limit at the time of the accident, Leone added.
DeMarco appeared in court for sentencing Tuesday. While the maximum sentence for his crimes would be seven years in prison, he was sentenced to five years of probation and successful completion and attendance of a felony drug court component. DeMarco will also have to pay a $500 DWI fine, have his license revoked for six months and ignition interlock devices are required on all vehicles he has access to during his probation.
As DeMarco has been in drug court for a number of months and Leone has been able to see his progress, Leone said he feels "comfortable with this sentence."
On Tuesday DeMarco said he recognized the seriousness of his crime and that he could've killed somebody, which he would never want to happen. "I want my daughter to have a real father," he added, not someone in and out of jail.
Also in court
• A Syracuse woman was sentenced for smuggling drugs into Cayuga Correctional Facility in March.
Elizabeth Trice, 45, of 131 Cordova St., pleaded guilty in August to first-degree promotion of prison contraband, a class D felony, and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, a class D felony.
In court Tuesday, Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said that Trice was caught bringing 40 suboxone strips into a prison by concealing them inside her groin area.
"I apologize for the wrong that I've done," Trice said Tuesday. "I'm really focused on making a change in my life for me and my kids and my grandchildren."
Cayuga County Judge Mark Fandrich sentenced Trice to five years of shock probation with 89 days in Cayuga County Jail, with an added condition that she can't visit any jail or prison without permission from her probation officer.
"It's very serious," Budelmann said of the incident, adding that since the late 1980s Trice has been arrested 26 times. "I think the jail time is appropriate" and "necessary" given her history, Budelmann said, noting that the shock probation offer was "generous."
As Trice is a student pursuing a career in nursing, she and her attorney, Simon Moody, pressed for straight probation or delay of the shock portion so she could finish the semester.
Fandrich denied that request and was going to remand Trice to jail immediately, but upon her protest that her car was in Auburn and she had to get things situated, he told her she must report to Cayuga County Jail by 3 p.m Tuesday.
• An Auburn man pleaded guilty to an attempted armed robbery.
Fandrich said that Matthew Gauthier, 34, entered Custom Cleaners at 74 N. Division St. in Auburn on Aug. 13 with the intent to use a knife to rob or otherwise obtain money illegally from the store.
Gauthier, of 144 Garrow St. Ext., admitted to entering the store with a knife with the intent to get money, but "the lady got scared and I ran out of the store."
Gauthier plead guilty to third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a class D felony, and third-degree attempted robbery, a class E felony.
He will appear in court for sentencing Feb. 26 — giving enough time for him to have a mental health evaluation — at which he will likely receive a sentence of 3.5 to 7 years in prison.