State of emergency declared Unattended burning barrel starts fire

ALBANY COUNTY — After a brushfire in Rensselaerville last Thursday, Albany County Executive Michael Breslin has declared a state of emergency and banned outdoor fires.

The emergency was declared on Sunday due to lack of rain and the risk of burning brush and other debris.  The ban, originally meant to last until yesterday, was extended through Sunday, April 27, because the National Weather Service forecast is predicting continued dry weather and increasing winds. 

Those who set outdoor fires will be subject to misdemeanor charges and fines.

The fire in Rensselaerville started at about 1 p.m. at a home on Hale Road due to an unattended burn barrel, and 150 firefighters from local fire departments fought the blaze until 9 p.m., but returned throughout the night and the next day to hit the hot spots, said Brian Wood, a firefighter with the Tri-Village Volunteer Fire Company. 

The fire covered 50 acres and burned from Hale Road to Route 360, he said.  There were no fatalities, and, though the fire came close to houses, none were destroyed.  One person sustained a head injury — a Rensselaerville highway department worker — who was trying to get a bulldozer to the scene, Wood said; he was transported by Medivac. 

Two tickets were issued to the property owner, Raymond Hoffman of 351 Hale Road, for violations of the state’s Environmental Conservation Law — one for an unattended fire, and one for endangering the property of another, said Lori O’Connell, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The fine will be set by the court if Hoffman is found or pleads guilty, O’Connell said in an e-mail message, and the maximum fine for the ECL violations is $250 each. 

Hoffman could not be reached for comment. 

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