In the past two-and-a-half years, there have now been five devastating “structure fires” that destroyed buildings in a short four-mile corridor of State Route 9H in Ghent. This of course includes Wednesday night’s massive fire and explosion at TCI, which caused such widespread disruption and concern across Columbia, Berkshire and Rensselaer counties.
The stretch of highway, running roughly from the intersection of 9H and 66 to Falls Road, takes about four minutes to traverse at the posted speed limit.
Below is a timeline with notes detailing those five major fires, keyed to the map above:
— SITE [B] —
WHERE: Meadowgreens, 1238 Route 9H
WHEN: January 21st, 2010, about 4 am
WHAT: A total loss, this intense fire occurred during renovations, and was ruled accidental.
— SITE [D] —
WHERE: Amanda's Fireplace, 1871 Route 9H
WHEN: May 18th, 2010, about 2 am
WHAT: This fire was deemed an arson in June 2010, but with no known culprit. The company applied for and apparently received some or all of $2.5 million in then-available stimulus bonds from the County IDA as part of rebuilding and expansion, though reports indicated they also had fire insurance. Note: Published fire and rescue reports also indicate that on April 26th of this year at around 10:40 am, firefighters from West Ghent responded to a fire alarm at Amanda’s fireplace, but deemed it a false alarm.
— SITE [A] —
WHERE: Private Home, 930 Route 9H
WHEN: October 25th, 2011, about 8:30 pm
WHAT: The home of newly-married couple, Brian and Susan Mathew, was destroyed by a fire while dining at the groom's mother’s house nextdoor.
— SITE [C] —
WHERE: TCI of NY, 39 Falls Industrial Park Road off 9H
WHEN: January 25th, 2012
WHAT: A fire raged in two trailers adjoining the TCI facility, reportedly containing palettes, “dirty rags” and mineral oil. Tires nearby also ignited. An anonymous commenter using the name “swingbatter2” at the Register-Star’s website wrote: “PCBs -- highly toxic carcinogenic stuff -- sitting next to dump trailers of dirty rags and flammable tanks? Doesn't sound so environmentally safe to me. Hopefully the firefighters were not exposed to nasty fumes that could make them very sick for the long term. Will DEC follow up to make sure containment and safety practices are being followed? The potential for soil and groundwater contamination should be of major concern to all neighbors.”
— SITE [C] AGAIN —
WHERE: TCI of NY (again), 39 Falls Industrial Road
WHEN: August 1st, 2012, about 10 pm
WHAT: A massive fire and explosions burn entire facility to ground, requiring State and Federal assistance, and causing evacuations and air quality warnings across three counties.
Now, of course fires happen all the time. But most fires are not total losses. And they aren’t all grouped in within a couple of years, or within single short corridor along a busy highway. Moreover, three of the fires occurred within a few hundred yards of each other, and one of those fires was deemed an arson—though to this site’s knowledge nobody was arrested for it.
Coincidences certainly happen, and the above pattern could be just that. But one would think that some resources might be devoted at this point, following this week’s near-disaster, to determining if there is any connection.