Sheriff: Preliminary investigation ID’s likely cause of marina fire

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The explosion at Coeymans Landing Marine Services injured one employee, who was airlifted to a burn center for further medical treatment. Courtesy of Albany County Sheriff’s Office

COEYMANS — The cause of the explosion that sparked a major fire at the Coeymans marina last Thursday appears to be welding that was being done near a waste oil tank, according to the preliminary investigation, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.

The employee was injured in the explosion and was airlifted by LifeNet to the University of Vermont Medical Center to be treated for his injuries, Apple said.

The 56-year-old male employee, whose name has not been released, suffered severe burns to his face and body, according to the sheriff.

“Upon a preliminary investigation it was determined that prior to the explosion the injured male was welding in close proximity to a waste oil tank, which appears to have been the origin of the explosion,” Apple said Friday.

The investigation was still ongoing at press time.

The explosion and fire at Coeymans Landing Marina Services generated plumes of black smoke that spread across the hamlet Jan. 20.

Residents and businesses were not officially ordered to evacuate on the day of the fire, but they were encouraged to leave the area if possible, Town Supervisor George McHugh said the day of the fire.

“The firemen went around to houses nearby and told people to close their windows and not come outside, and if they have someplace else to go, go,” McHugh said.

People were asked to stay away from the area until the fire was completely brought under control.

One of the big concerns the day of the fire was the proximity of the flames to highly flammable materials, McHugh said.

“There are a lot of waste oil barrels and three boats there that are on fire,” the town supervisor said.

There were no explosions after the initial blast that started the fire.

The fire sent plumes of black smoke across the hamlet Thursday. Contributed photo

With officials asking residents to stay indoors and keep windows closed, the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk school district announced Thursday that changes were made to the day’s routine at Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary School, which is located less than a mile from the marina where the fire was blazing.

“We have chosen to hold recess at Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary inside for today and have made temporary modifications to our air circulation,” the district announced on its website Thursday.

Numerous fire companies responded to the scene and battled frosty temperatures to bring the fire under control. Responding fire departments included Coeymans, Coeymans Hollow, Ravena, New Baltimore, Selkirk, Coxsackie, East Berne, Westerlo and Medway-Grapeville.

“Crews were able to extinguish this fire despite the cold temperatures and through an extensive amount of coordination,” according to a statement from the Ravena Fire Department.

Also responding were the Albany County Fire Coordinator’s Office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Office for Fire Prevention and Control, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Elsmere Fire District provided coverage for the town while the departments were working at the scene.

Emergency medical services were provided by the Ravena Rescue Squad and Albany County EMS. The Coeymans Police Department and Albany County Sheriff’s Office also assisted at the scene.

McHugh said the work done by first responders was invaluable.

“All I can say is that Coeymans residents are very fortunate to have these first responders in our community and available in times of crisis,” McHugh said in a statement. “Their professionalism and dedication to serving our community and putting their lives on the line for their fellow neighbor is amazing, and my words cannot even begin to describe the pride and admiration I have for all of them.”

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