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Officials: West Ghent Chemical Fire "99 % Out"

Tristan O'Neill, WAMC

A Columbia County recycling company went up in flames last night - the resulting overnight chemical fire released toxic fumes: it forced the imposition of emergency measures across parts of Columbia and Rensselaer counties in New York and Berkshire County in Massachusetts, which remain in effect this morning... Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports

The fire broke out around 10pm Wednesday at TCI of New York on Route 9H in West Ghent- According to Columbia County officials, the building housed mineral oil tanks, tractor trailers containing fuel oil, propane tanks, and other hazardous substances, including sodium that came from transformers disposed of at TCI.

Public and emergency service agencies in both Columbia and Rensselaer counties have been overwhelmed with phone calls from anxious residents...

Columbia County officials issued a statement advising residents within a 15 mile radius of the fire to remain indoors until further notice because of potential exposure to contaminants from the fire. 

At least six local fire companies were initially called to fight the fire.  A variety of services were canceled for the day in the watch area, including some affecting summer youth programs and senior citizen centers.

A spokesman for Andrew Cuomo confirmed the Governor's office is closely monitoring the situation through the State Emergency Operations Center...    due to the eastward track of smoke from the industrial fire, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is recommending citizens in Southern Berkshire County  take precautions


Residents and officials in Columbia, Rensealaer and Berkshire counties - breathing a sigh of relief in the wake of a massive chemical fire in West Ghent -

The fire at TCI Incorporated in the Town of Ghent began Wednesday night at 10 p.m. and involved several different types of materials, including sodium, diesel fuel, propane and mineral oil. In response to the incident, the Town of Ghent declared a State of Emergency... other municipalities followed as public and emergency services agencies were inundated with call from local residents

State and local officials called a press conference Thursday afternoon in Hudson, where the industrial fire was proclaimed "99 per cent over" - A full-blown investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

Columbia County's office of emergency management director Bill Black says in his 30-years of fire experience he's never witnessed a blaze as intense as the one at TCI

State health Department Deputy commissioner for Public Health Dr. Gus Birkhead says any PCBs that may have been present burned up in the fire

Results of dioxin tests are expected back on Friday...

Bill Black says the county will issue an advisory informing residents what actions they need to take concerning clean-up and proper handling of materials contaminated with soot

Governor Cuomo has promised Columbia County "anything it needs" in the aftermath of the fire. 

Two firefighters were injured battling the blaze - one treated at the scene, the other at a nearby hospital

There is no estimate of damages - once the investigation concludes decisions will need to be made about what to do with the residual chemicals at the site, and what to do with the site itself

This is the second fire at TCI this year. In January, two dump trailers filled with pallets and dirty rags standing next to trailers of mineral oil ignited. That fire was quickly contained. TCI of New York officials declined to comment.

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.