Remains of former Doane Stuart School being demolished after huge fire
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There is virtually nothing left of the old Doane Stuart School in Albany. Attention is turning to what caused the huge fire that destroyed it on Thursday.
Firefighters were still hosing down hot spots on Friday. What remains on the 75-acre site resembles a heavily bombed war zone.
The fire was massive and widespread. There were bright orange flames and thick black smoke billowing into the sky as evening commuters were making their way home from work just after 6 p.m. on Thursday.
It took more than four hours to bring the fire under control.
Because of the intensity of the heat, firefighters set up a defensive posture, meaning it was too dangerous to fight the blaze from inside the burning structure.
Twenty-four pieces of fire apparatus were at the scene, Albany Fire Chief Joseph Gregory said.
There were also 51 city firefighters battling the inferno.
The old Doane Stuart School campus was estimated by the fire chief to include more than 100,000 square feet of building space.
There appeared to be more than one building on the property that caught fire.
Inferno Investigation Underway
“This building means a lot to a lot of different people. It’s historic, it was beautiful, it was beloved,” Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said.
“The call came in at 6:26. Our units arrived at 6:33. They found a heavy fire condition throughout the structure,” said Gregory. “Within minutes of our arrival, a steeple collapsed on the building, so that shows you how well involved the fire was at that point.
“We were called here over a dozen times for the plywood being removed and people getting into the building and vandalizing and stripping materials,” said Rick LaJoy, Albany’s director of buildings and regulatory compliance.
“There was activity here. The plans with respect to this property as presented to us by Kenwood Commons, LLC was to create condos, apartments,” Sheehan said.
“We’d come down here. We were often encountering people walking through the property, walking around the property and chasing them out of here,” LaJoy said. “It was constantly on our radar. We were here quite often, trying to ensure that something like this wouldn’t happen.”
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A company called Guild Investment group owns the property.
As recently as last week, company officials inquired about zoning regulations on the property, said Sheehan.
The property is $5.5 million in arrears in paying taxes, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said.
NewsChannel 13 will continue to bring you updates on the fire on WNYT.com and our later newscasts.