Stove and fireplace business goes up in flames

W.GHENT–Sixteen fire companies were summoned to the scene Tuesday of a blaze at Amanda’s Fireplace, a 100 by 200-foot building that contained a retail store/showroom, office and warehouse space at 1869 Route 9H.

The business sold wood and pellet stoves, gas and woodburning fireplace inserts, barbecue grills and accessories.

Amanda’s Fireplace and Vermont Castings is next door to the BAC Sales building at 1871 Route 9H. Both are near the Falls Road intersection and are owned by Bob Cohen, according to West Ghent Fire Chief James Cesternino.

The fire alarm was dispatched at 2:05 a.m. Tuesday, May 18, according to the County 911 Center. The fire was called in by a passerby.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation by the Columbia County Cause and Origin Team and the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the chief said Wednesday.

When he arrived, the chief found heavy fire at the north end of building where the warehouse was located. Inside were more than 1,000 cast iron stoves, fireplaces and grills in wooden crates and cardboard boxes stacked from the floor to the ceiling, he said.

Like the Meadowgreens Restaurant, which was also in the West Ghent Fire District and burned January 21, the Amanda’s Fireplace building was a metal structure, which contained the heat. The inventory of stoves and fireplaces all contributed to the heat retention within the building.

Noting the scope of the fire, the chief summoned manpower and equipment from 15 additional departments to battle the blaze.

A pond at First Fuel across the road was used as a water source for teams entering the structure from the south and a tanker shuttle was established to supply water to the teams entering from the east.

As the fire progressed, two ladder trucks were called in–one from Hudson, the other from Valatie.

About an hour and a half into fighting the fire, part of the ceiling collapsed and three firefighters were momentarily trapped near the south end of the building. They weren’t stuck for more than a minute, said Chief Cesternino, noting they were immediately pulled out by a Firefighter Assistance and Survival Team (FAST). After that the chief decided to cease the interior attack and concentrate on dousing the blaze from outside.

Also playing a part in the chief’s decision was that each stove weighs anywhere from 200 to 500 pounds. Under the intense temperatures within the building the metal racking on which the stoves were stacked could twist and cause the stoves to crash down, a risky situation that the chief was not willing to chance, he said.

Vent holes were opened up in the building and master streams of water poured inside, the chief said.

The Greenport Rescue Squad took one Claverack firefighter to Columbia Memorial Hospital for treatment of a knee injury after he tripped over a hose. The chief said a second firefighter later reported a pulled muscle.

About 100 firefighters were on the scene at the height of the blaze.

Though the building is still standing, the chief believes it will be deemed a total loss of $1 million plus.

He said that structural steel is compromised after exposure to high heat and though some of the stoves on the lower racks still remained in their cartons, they likely sustained water damage. The showroom was heavily damaged by smoke.

In addition to the West Ghent Fire Department, firefighters and equipment from Stockport, Stottville, Ghent, Churchtown, Claverack, Mellenville, Philmont, Greenport, Stuyvesant Falls, Valatie, Kinderhook, Chatham, Stuyvesant, Hudson and Niverville were called to the scene.

Fire companies on standby were Craryville, Germantown, Livingston, Spencertown, Schodack Landing and Catskill.

Route 9H was closed during the fire because hoses were laid across the highway. It was reopened just before noon.

Due to the investigation that followed, the chief said he remained on the scene until 7:30 p.m. He praised the work of the firefighters, noting “the resources were there right away.”

A veteran of 24 years in the fire company, 13 or 14 years as a chief, he said the blaze was the most intense and difficult to fight he has ever encountered. “This is one goes in the book,” he said.

To contact Diane Valden email

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