Remembering the Remsen Street fire 5 years ago

Cohoes saw one of the worst fires in the city’s history five years ago. The flames ripped through three city blocks on Remsen Street.

The call came in a little after 2 p.m. Cohoes Fire Chief Joseph Fahd said all the companies were down at his office training at that time. He said when he came around the corner, all he could see was smoke and fire.

Firefighters from Albany, Troy, Watervliet and even Saratoga County came to help. Fahd believes nearly 100 firefighters were on Remsen Street that day.

The fire started in a burn barrel behind apartment buildings. John Gomes admitted to trying to forge a sword, but the winds whipped the fire into a frenzy. He was charged with fourth degree arson and reckless endangerment, and was sentenced to one year in jail.

The fire damaged at least 20 buildings and destroyed three more, along with a garage. Many of the buildings destroyed were apartments and businesses.

Plans For the Future

There is now a vacant lot along Remsen Street. The city has been working to acquire the six different parcels. Once they are all acquired, the city will then put out a request for proposal to different developers.

“We have been working diligently to obtain control of the six parcels behind us that were affected by the fire to put together one large parcel for redevelopment, and so that something good can rise from the ashes,” said Steve Napier, the director of Community and Economic Development.

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler says he would like to see residential apartments and storefronts at the vacant lot again.

Keeler was not the mayor at the time. However, he was in the city working to build a house. He says he made a trip to Home Depot in Latham. On the way back, all he could see was smoke.