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The Times
  • Fire at former Union Fork and Hoe ruled accidental

  • By all means, this was “the big one.”

    Frankfort Fire Chief Charles Conigliaro said it is not a term he likes to use, but it applied to the massive fire that consumed 12 of the 35 buildings at the former Union Fork and Hoe site on Wednesday.

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  • By all means, this was “the big one.”
    Frankfort Fire Chief Charles Conigliaro said it is not a term he likes to use, but it applied to the massive fire that consumed 12 of the 35 buildings at the former Union Fork and Hoe site on Wednesday.
    Conigliaro said the fire was unprecedented for the department, noting it was due to “the fact that we had multiple buildings in a former industrial site in close proximity.”
    Conigliaro said the cause of the fire is being ruled accidental, caused by ongoing construction work at the site in the village of Frankfort. The site —owned by Ames True Temper — was being prepared for demolition to be revitalized into another commercial area for the village.
    The alarm sounded at 1:48 p.m. Wednesday, when firefighters were soon faced with the size and magnitude of the blaze. Assistance was soon requested for the county and the state Office of Fire Prevention to respond.
    Conigliaro said firefighters took an “aggressive defensive mode,” to combat the fears of the fire spreading to neighboring residential homes on Orchard Street.
    “We drew a line in the sand and we held our ground, stopping it from going any further,” he said.
    Fire crews rolled out their hoses to begin fighting the blaze.
    Eventually, ladder trucks were brought in to fight the blaze from a higher angle.
    “We didn’t have a problem with the hydrants. We taxed them to their limitations. Additional agencies brought in their water,” said Conigliaro, noting on Wednesday a total of 1.5 million gallons of water was used to help extinguish the blaze.
    A brief storm that rolled in about an hour into the ordeal did little to alleviate the firefighters’ efforts. “I wished it rained a little more,” said Conigliaro.
    Firefighters worked through the night to monitor the fire. On Thursday morning, heavy smoke still wafted from the scene over onto Main Street. Herkimer County Emergency Services has closed off Main Street, from Palmer to Frankfort streets, until further notice.
    Conigliaro said excavators were scheduled to arrive Thursday evening to start knocking down some of the ruined buildings and to remove debris that is harboring some of the fire.
    “We cannot obtain access to spots buried with debris,” he said.
    The fire became a bit of a spectacle for residents, those passing by and others who noticed the large, black cloud of smoke that drifted over the village from the flames.
    Many turned out to watch the blaze with friends and family, taking their own pictures with phones and cameras, and reporting what they saw by cell phone.
    “On behalf of the officers and members of the department, we surely appreciate all the help and assistance,” said Conigliaro. “And believe me, we got a lot of that.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Conigliaro estimated over 200 firefighters answered the call on Wednesday from 30 agencies across three counties. “A lot of folks left work, they left their families to come to the fire,” he said. “Everybody was there to tough it out for the long haul.”
    Out of the number of firefighters who responded to the scene, only one had to be treated for a heat-related injury. Conigliaro said firefighters were mandated to take time to rehab by resting and hydrating.
    Some media reports noted a concern about contaminants that may have been in the air from the fire. “All indications from the state DEC and the [Department of] Homeland Security, who set up air monitors yesterday, said the air itself was good,” said Frankfort Mayor Frank Moracco.
    Stephen Litwhiler, regional citizen participation specialist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an e-mail there were no known hazards associated with the fire, other than those typically associated with any large building fires.
    “Asbestos abatement has been under way for almost a month and was near completion. For the buildings reported to be involved in the fire, the asbestos program was complete or not needed due to a lack of asbestos,” said Litwhiler. “Prior to building demolition, the buildings were surveyed for hazardous materials (drums, containers, etc.) and those materials were removed.”
    Litwhiler also said “demolition work began this week to strip all material from the buildings besides wood, brick, block, steel and concrete.”
    According to a state DEC fact sheet, the site had been used for industrial purposes for over 100 years. The site had originally been used for railroad operations, but then became a manufacturing site for hand tools, such as hoes, shovels and forks. In 2006, when it was called Union Tools, the site was acquired by Ames True Temper and manufacturing was discontinued.
    Moracco said the intent is still to demolish all the buildings on the site.
    “This may push it a little sooner,” he said.

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