Accidental tragedy, deliberately set fire

December 01, 2017 08:05 AM

COHOES - Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse calls it "the biggest tragedy he's seen in the city's history."

It was a disaster spread out over three city blocks; twenty buildings were damaged to varying degrees; three of them along the city's main downtown business district on Remsen Street were destroyed.

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"I can tell you the extent of the damage is everything you'd ever think you can see in a fire," said Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse. "From houses being destroyed, to smoke damage that's still going to cost thousands of dollars, and the inconvenience of trying to clean your house and go home and not smell like it's a fire."

The fire's origin, authorities say, was in the rear of 228 Remsen Street, where they say John Gomes, 51, had a fire going in a steel drum in his backyard. They say he was trying to bend metal to mold it into a sword. The problem, however, was that, at the time, winds were gusting up to 30 miles per hour.

"We often tell people we don't allow open burns in the city and they often say, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Morse says, "This open burn just caused millions of dollars in damage and has destroyed half of our downtown."

After Gomes admitted to police what he had been doing, and why, they charged him with Arson Fourth Degree, a felony, and Reckless Endangerment 1st Degree, also a felony.

"The reality is if you have half a human heart, you have to have some kind of remorse of what just happened," Morse states, "Even if you're argument is I didn't mean to do it, I don't know if Mr. Gomes meant to do it but it happened, and the results are horrendous for our community."

Gomes was arraigned in Cohoes City Court Thursday evening and sent to the Albany County Jail, unable to raise $15,000 bail.



WNYT Staff

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