Raging flames take 7 hours to extinguish, Rombout Aerial Tower Called in on mutual aid to assist
By Michelle J. Lee Poughkeepsie Journal
Friday, May 14, 2004
WAPPINGERS FALLS – More than 150 firefighters spent seven hours battling a ferocious fire that swept through three buildings in the Market Street Industrial Park, forcing some nearby businesses and residents to evacuate.
Wappingers Falls village police responded to a call at 10:45 a.m. Friday. Police spotted the fire and found a juvenile with minor burns, who was sent to St. Francis Hospital and later released, Police Commissioner Michael Capra said. There were no other injuries.
Firefighters from 11 companies soon arrived and doused the flames with water pumped from Wappingers Creek. More than 20 apparatus vehicles and, including Rombout Aerial Tower 62-45, were used. Some said the smoke could be seen and smelled as far as Poughkeepsie and Fishkill.
While it was unclear how or where the fire started, the flames damaged three of five buildings connected to each other by
walls and hallways. Two building roofs burned and collapsed, while part of a third roof fell.
"It was unbelievable. One flame, then boom," said Walter Amaty, who works at Lighting & Electronics at 91 Market St.
Theresa Canora, an Antique Collector's Club bookkeeper, said she watched the fire from the fourth floor and saw the roofs collapse within minutes.
Wappingers Falls fire Chief Steve Paino said the firefighters stopped the flames from spreading to two buildings at the end of the complex, which used to house a car repair shop and an adonizing company, which treated aluminum.
Spreading a concern
Paino was initially concerned the fire would spread and burn chemicals that might be stored at the old aluminum treatment building, but tests done by representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation showed there were no toxins in the air.
As a safety measure, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Co. workers turned off electricity and gas lines in the area.
The village police and arson investigators from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department are investigating the fire cause, Capra said.
The Market Street complex was the site of industrial companies since the 19th century. Among the businesses that operated there were the Dutchess Bleachery, Tupperware and Three-Star Adonizing.
Some of the five buildings in the cluster were abandoned and it was uncertain who owned them. Some were used as storage for household items and furniture, village Building Inspector Michael Witkowski said.
Parking on one side of the complex was rented by Clark Transfer Inc., a theatrical transportation company based in Harrisburg, Pa. Jeff Hess, the operations manager, said the trucks were moved and will be inspected.
Brett Travis and his brother Chris, who rents the garage at the end of the complex, nervously watched the fire burn the neighboring buildings.
Travis, who lives in Peekskill, Westchester County, said he regularly visits his brother in the village and restores cars at the garage. They were shopping for supplies for a New Jersey trip, but drove back after a neighbor alerted them about the fire.
Dogs weren't in danger
Travis said he was thankful the German shepherds they usually use to guard the garage were at home.
"Material things you can replace," he said. He noted kids often hang around on the dirt road behind the complex.
Jason VanTielen, a landscaper who was evacuated from his home on Fulton Street, said the industrial complex was dangerous.
"I knew it would be a big problem if anything happened. They're really old," said VanTielen, a former volunteer firefighter.
Although the fire was under control by 3:30 p.m., firefighters continued to spray water on the buildings for another three hours.
"Good work there. Kept his cool," Capra said about Paino and the firefighters. "(They did) an outstanding job, all of them."
Police blocked traffic and evacuated businesses and residents along several nearby streets, including Dutchess Avenue and Fulton, Market, McKinley and East Main streets.
"When they say it's alive, it's alive. It was eating off the building," Tyrell Ingram said of the fire. The Town of Wappinger resident watched the flames from the Antique Collector's Club office.
Ingram, who ships books, abandoned his car and wallet during the evacuation and had to call a friend to help him out.
While he was initially worried about the fire, Ingram said his main concern was getting to his second job as a bank teller in Hopewell Junction.
Amaty, who lives in Hopewell Junction, also left his car behind and was uncertain how he would get home.
"There’s a bar down the road" he joked.