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Fires: Aftermath In Albany; Investigation In Troy

A huge Monday night fire has changed the landscape of an Albany neighborhood, while the hunt is on across the river in Troy for an arsonist believed responsible for a string of recent fires.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan tells NewsChannel 13 fire ripped through 404 through 412 Madison and it is expected five buildings in all will have to be taken down. The smoky fire broke out just after severe thunderstorms rolled through the Capital City. The Red Cross assisted several displaced residents. No cause has been determined. Investigators say a common attic space helped spread the flames quickly across the five structures.

In Troy, officials are now considering numerous recent fires there suspicious. Mayor Patrick Madden is calling for community participation in bringing an arsonist to justice. "We're aware of what's going on. We're taking it very seriously. We're trying to address it before it becomes a problem of the magnitude that we've seen in the past. We're trying to get out in front of it. And I need to impress the public that they have a role in it. They can help us either solve the arsons or reduce the possibility for more arsons.

City Hall has assembled a task force and is distributing fliers with tips for residents.  "One. Report open vacant. Take a look at the vacant properties in your neighborhood. If the boards are off the windows or the door is opened or the building is otherwise accessible, please call the Bureau of Code Enforcement... Two. If you notice people hanging around or trespassing on the vacant property please call 911 and make a report. We'll dispatch an officer as quickly as we can. Three. If vegetation has grown up around the vacant property to the point where it obscures the view of the property, please call the Bureau of Code Enforcement.  Four. If you hear noise coming from a vacant property, please call 911 immediately. Five. Do not pile combustible material, wood, branches, furniture, against a building, the garage or in the alleyway.  Six. If you have outside lights, leave them on at night. If they are spotlights, direct them into the alleys or other dark areas around your home. Seven. if you have a home security camera, please register it with the Troy Police Camera Registry Program. In the event there is an incident in your neighborhood, it will help the police quickly identify those who might have captured something on video. Eight. If you are in the neighborhood of one of the properties that recently burned and you saw something or heard something, or have home video that might have captured something, please call the police department's detective bureau."

Madden says the investigation is active and producing workable information. And as many abandoned buildings around the city that can be, will be taken down. More than 570 properties are classified as vacant in Troy. A fraction of those are owned by the city.

Troy Police Chief John Tedesco says the current spate of fires is similar to a rash of them in 2014. But he says vulnerable locations are now under surveillance. "In the North Central area we've doubled the number of patrol officers. There's certainly a lot of extra details that have been taking place there. So at any given time we've had between 8 and 16 officers in that area."

Troy City Council President Carmella Mantello issued a statement saying "I support the various techniques the Mayor, Police Chief, and Fire Chief are implementing regarding the numerous arsons occurring in the North Central and Lansingburgh sections of our City. Additionally, I would encourage a full court press of unmarked police cars and plain clothes police officers to apprehend and bring an end to these arsons."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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