Massive fire destroys Broadalbin plant

Firefighters from four counties tried in vain on Thursday to save a manufacturing and warehouse buil
A fireman shuts down his hose just before an outside wall caves in at Fiber Conversion along Route 29 in Broadalbin on Thursday afternoon.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A fireman shuts down his hose just before an outside wall caves in at Fiber Conversion along Route 29 in Broadalbin on Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters from four counties tried in vain on Thursday to save a manufacturing and warehouse building at Fiber Conversion Inc. in the village.

Co-owner Doug Kissinger said he’s not sure what sparked the massive fire, the smoke from which could be seen from as far away as Caroga Lake, Gloversville, Northville and some 10 miles distant from the Thruway in Amsterdam.

“We don’t know yet. Who knows if we ever will at this point,” Kissinger said as scores of firefighters trained hoses on the burning building.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, which started just before 3 p.m.

The company reprocesses, shreds and bales textile waste that is used in numerous manufacturing applications, Kissinger said. He said the burning material was nylon and polyester, hence the black smoke.

A worker told Kissinger Thursday was a sad day for Broadalbin.

“It is. We’ve been here 100 years,” Kissinger said.

It’s unclear how large an impact the fire will have on the company’s operations.

“Our main production lines were in this building, so this is going to hurt us. It’s not good. We’ve got to get this mess cleaned up, or tear it down,” Kissinger said.

“This is terrible,” Fulton County Fire Coordinator Alan Polmateer said as he surveyed the scene.

Polmateer said firefighters were expected to be on the scene through the evening to ensure hot spots were extinguished. An investigation would begin after that, he said.

The fire was still burning after 9 p.m. — more than six hours after it was discovered.

Polmateer said the fire started in the northeast corner of the building, but still had no information on the cause.

Excavators were about to start clearing debris to allow firefighters to get to the parts of the building that were still burning as Polmateer spoke.

He said state fire prevention and control officials were helping with the investigation.

Polmateer said firefighers from at least 20 companies were on the scene during the battle, from Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga and Hamilton counties.

“Our biggest thing right now is keeping everybody supplied with water,” Polmateer said at the height of the firefighting effort.

Tanker trucks were shuttling to and from the scene from Route 29 and also lining up on Second Avenue to augment the flow of water to the fire.

Village hydrants were tapped and pumps and lines were also lowered into the Kennyetto Creek from a Second Avenue bridge.

Still, chiefs on the scene were looking for more water. A city of Johnstown aerial ladder truck arrived and began to pump water on the fire from above, but it soon ran dry.

Other ladder trucks from other departments worked different sides of the building.

“As far as I know, no one was hurt,” Polmateer said, although a couple of people who inhaled a little smoke were checked out by paramedics and deemed OK.

Residents in the neighborhood were not in danger but they were inconvenienced. Five-inch water lines blocked driveways on Second Avenue and on Elm Street, where the plant is located.

An adjacent portion of Route 29 was also closed to allow trucks and tankers unfettered access to the scene.

People came from miles away to watch.

They included Larry Springer, who parked at Meatland and hiked to the scene, only to watch in amazement as the water seemed to have no effect on the roaring flames while huge plumes of black smoke churned into the air.

“Years and years ago I worked here for a little while,” Springer said. “It doesn’t want to go out.”

Kissinger said the company, which employs about 30 people, is insured.

“In fact, we have good insurance. Well, we’ll see how good it is when we call them,” he said.

Firefighters from Providence and Harmony Corners were on the scene, as were others from Hagaman, Fort Johnson, the city of Johnstown, Greenfield, Northville, Edinburg and other departments.

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