Furman arrested as his Westerlo house burns 

Westerlo house in flames

— Photo from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office 
The home of William Furman in Westerlo burns Tuesday night. Westerlo Fire Chief Tom Diederich said that the fire seemed to be concentrated in the center of the home and that the home was a total loss. 

WESTERLO — While firefighters fought a house fire in Westerlo on Tuesday night, the homeowner, William J. Furman, 35, tried to re-enter the building, mistakenly believing that his two dogs were still inside the home, according to Inspector James Campbell of the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. 

Furman was not under arrest at the time that deputies placed him inside a patrol vehicle to calm him down but, when he kicked and broke a rear window of the patrol car, “that changed things,” said Campbell.

Furman then resisted aid from police and emergency-medical workers, who were trying to see if he needed treatment, “because he wasn’t being rational,” Campbell said. Furman kicked a stretcher that emergency medical technicians were trying to place him on, the inspector said, and the stretcher struck and injured an EMT, who was taken to the hospital. 

Furman was charged with second-degree assault and third-degree criminal mischief, both felonies; and with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors. 

Furman was arraigned by Judge Kenneth Mackey in Westerlo Town Court and remanded to Albany County’s jail in lieu of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond; he remained in custody as of Wednesday. He was due back in town court on Friday, June 28, at 4 p.m. 

 

The fire 

The fire call came in at about 8:30 p.m., reporting that a sofa was on fire and that everyone was out of the house, Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company Chief Tom Diederich told The Enterprise; he thinks the call was from the homeowner.

Furman’s house is at 240 Kropp Road; the chief lives nearby and arrived within two minutes, to see heavy flames shooting out of two sides of the one-story house, he said.

Diederich said that, when he arrived, he had learned that Furman and his girlfriend and several pets had gotten out safely. Whether all residents, including pets, are accounted for “is one of the first questions we ask,” he said. 

Firefighting apparatus was just minutes behind him, he said. 

Firefighters decided on an exterior attack, he said, because the structure was not safe to enter. They had the fire knocked down within about 10 minutes and then spent several hours doing overhaul, digging through debris and wetting down newly uncovered areas. 

This needed to be done by opening “new doors and windows” in the side walls, Diederich said. 

Firefighters could not make holes in the roof because all the roof trusses were severely burned out or compromised, he said. 

Diederich reflected that the two biggest challenges were that the building was so structurally compromised that firefighters could not enter, and the length of the driveway, which called for laying out 600 feet of hose. 

Firefighters had a water source a little more than three-tenths of a mile away, and, with mutual aid from Rensselaerville and Medusa, did not have any issue with water. 

Besides the 20 firefighters and support personnel from Westerlo, the Berne Fire Company provided additional manpower, and the Greenville Fire Company was on standby, Diederich said. Also on hand were the Westerlo Rescue Squad, the Albany County Sheriff’s ambulance, the Helderberg Ambulance Squad, and two Albany County medics, he added. 

Firefighters did not leave the scene until about 1 a.m., Diederich said, adding that he was sure the home was a total loss. 

Investigation of the cause of the fire has been turned over to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, according to the chief. 

The Albany County assessment rolls list the house at 240 Kropp Road as belonging to Babette Furman and Michael Furman, and give the full-market value for the house and 73 acres as $193,548.

More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.