Fire levels garden shed/workshop at Camphill



Firefighters and investigators comb through the remains of a large garden shed at Camphill Village, West Copake, searching for the cause of a blaze that destroyed the building February 13. Photo by Lance Wheeler.W. COPAKE—A large three-bay garden shed on Camphill Village Road at Camphill Village was destroyed by a blaze that broke out in the early morning hours Sunday, February 13.


Camphill Village is a 600-acre residential community for people with developmental disabilities, Camphill staff members and their families. It is the oldest and largest Camphill facility in North America and was founded in 1961.

The fire alarm went out to Copake firefighters at 3:05 a.m. The blaze was reported by a Camphill resident on Willow Lane. Mutual aid with tankers and manpower was summoned from Craryville, Taghkanic, Hillsdale and Ancram.


The 60- by 30-foot building, a wood-framed pole barn with a metal roof and walls, contained gardening tools and equipment, a medium-sized tractor and two small chest freezers, according to Copake Fire Chief John DeRocha.

Newsman Lance Wheeler, who filmed a report from the scene, spoke to Camphill Village Executive Director Richard Neal, who said the building was about six-years-old and was a workshop for about 10 adults.

The structure was fully-involved in flames when firefighters arrived. Due to high snow banks, access was difficult, the icy road was made more treacherous by the water being applied to the fire, said the chief.

A tanker shuttle was set up to haul water to the scene from a dry hydrant  in the hamlet, about three miles away, Chief DeRocha said .

The blaze was reported knocked down and firefighters were overhauling at 4:45 a.m., according to information from County 911.

Though one report from the scene indicated three firefighters fell and were hurt due to the slippery conditions, Chief DeRocha said no injuries were reported to him.

The county Cause and Origin Team was called in, but was unavailable, said the chief. Investigators from the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) were on the scene along with Bill Hunt from the County Fire Coordinators Office. The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined, but investigators are confident it is not suspicious, the chief said.

About 40 firefighters battled the blaze. An assistant Copake chief and OFPC officials remained on the fire scene into the afternoon.

To contact Diane Valden email



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