1/20/2010 By David Avitabile/Photo by Shelly Bishop
Schoharie County highway department workers have begun to return to their offices and the county highway garage after a fire caused major damage to the garage last Tuesday.
The fire, which started at about 5:30pm, caused roof damage in the garage on upper Main Street in Schoharie and mostly smoke damage in the offices, which front Main Street.
Five office workers had to call the emergency management offices in the nearby jail home for the rest of the week while highway workers moved to another building on the grounds, according to Earl VanWormer, chairman of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors.
Cleaning of the offices was to be done by the end of the weekend, Mr. VanWormer said. The workers could then move back in.
The fire, possibly started from a 10-wheeled dump truck, heavily damaged the third and fourth bays in the 12-bay garage.
The truck, valued at $200,000, was a loss and officials are still trying to determine the extent of the damage in the garage, Mr. VanWormer said.
The main beams appear to be secure, he said, but roof materials and supports have to be examined. Temporary repairs to the roof, which had to be cut open by firefighters, were done over the weekend.
It will be determined whether half or all of the roof has to be replaced, according to Schoharie town Supervisor Martin Shrederis.
The damage is covered by insurance, Mr. VanWormer said.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Mr. VanWormer said that people in the area saw flames and a night crew at the garage responded to the alarm.
Schoharie Fire Chief Marty Pierce said that one bay was fully involved when he got to the scene.
The fire got into the roof and spread through the insulation, he said.
There was nothing suspicious about the fire and no one was in the building when the fire broke out.
An exact cause is still being determined, but Mr. VanWormer said that an overheated electrical device may have been the cause, most likely from the truck.
This raises concerns, he said, since the county has several similar types of trucks.
County officials praised the work of volunteer firefighters, ambulance crews, and local highway departments.
“It was a very good stop,” Chief Pierce said.
“For a fire of that magnitude,” he noted that no one was hurt.
About 100 fire personnel were on the scene until about 11pm, he said.
Firefighters from Schoharie, Middleburgh, Central Bridge, Gallupville, Cobleskill, Knox and Esperance responded to the scene while other departments such as Huntersland were on standby.
Auxiliary personnel made sure firefighters were able to keep warm and nourished at the Scho-Wright building across the street from the fire.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment for these people to come in and keep the damage to a minimum,” Mr. VanWormer said.
The effort shows the quality of the volunteers and employees in the county, he said.
Some county trucks had to be moved to other locations in Schoharie, Middleburgh and others and town crews have helped out with roads since the fire.
Despite the loss of a truck and the damage to the garage, the county should have no problems in case of a snowstorm, Mr. VanWormer said.
“We’re ready to go,” he said Wednesday, though he did add, “I’m surprised we’re not getting a snowstorm.”
Tom Fagnani, commissioner of public works, added, “The rest of our fleet is still intact. We’re in good shape.”
Several other trucks were damaged, mostly because of the heat of the fire. They suffered melted mirrors and buckled paint, Mr. VanWormer said.