Monday night’s fire at the Gap Distribution Center in Dutchess County has left hundreds of employees displaced as an investigation into the cause gets under way.
Flames engulfed one of two Gap Distribution Center buildings in Fishkill Monday night, known as building 2. Village of Fishkill Fire Chief Brandon Knapp says firefighters were driven out quickly, switching from an offensive to defensive attack within seven minutes.
“A transition to a defensive attack was made, ultimately resulting in the deployment of numerous fire departments from Dutchess, Putnam and Orange Counties,” Knapp says.
He says the incident is being jointly investigated by the New York State Police; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control; and Dutchess County Fire Investigation team. Captain Dominick Chiumento with the state police says the cause of the fire remains under investigation and that all Gap employees were evacuated and accounted for with no reported injuries. Matthew Myerson is an ATF spokesman.
“ATF has federal jurisdiction over fires involving interstate commerce,” Myerson says. “And we provide investigative and technical assistance in fire scenes just like this on a fairly routine basis.”
“No one should read anything into our presence. There are any number of fire scenes that we investigate that are accidental in nature,” says Myerson. “We don’t know that until we go and do the investigation.”
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was on the scene.
“About one-third of a 1 million-square-foot building has been damaged. Product damage exceeds well above $1 million worth of product damage,” Molinaro says. “This is the Northeast Distribution Center for Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and some of their other subsidiaries. It’s also, by the way, the Northeast online distribution facility and, in fact, this particular building had significant upgrades to accommodate their online distribution.”
He says Gap has some 600 employees at the Fishkill location. About half were onsite at the time of the fire, with about 200 of them in building 2. Gap occupies two connected buildings on the Fishkill campus. Molinaro talks about the other building, building 1, which is just less than 2 million square feet.
“They’re evaluating what, if any, smoke damage may have occurred in building 1. So at the moment, the entire facility is closed for today,” Molinaro says. “The Gap officials are hopeful that it can open building 1 and make use of it for its standard operations and then attempt to organize some of the work that would have occurred at building 2 in building 1, and that’s a decision they have to make.”
Molinaro says he and Assistant County Executive for Economic Development Ron Hicks are working closely with Gap Vice-President/Regional General Manager Jim Young to ensure resources are available to displaced employees. The county is coordinating with the governor’s office and the New York State Department of Labor's Regional Rapid Response Coordinator to identify resources available locally with the goal of coordinating a response and offering assistance to meet employees’ needs. Gap is one of the county’s largest private sector employers and numbers ramp up for the holiday season.
“The Gap is in the process now of expanding their employment to prepare for the holiday distribution season,” says Molinaro. “So, at its peak, over the next several weeks, the Gap would employ somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 people.”
A Gap spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Audio of the fire chief is courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Journal.