‘We’ve lost our home’: Minden town barn mostly destroyed in blaze

Minden's town barn was mostly destroyed by a fire in the early hours of Sunday. (Photo courtesy Terry Potoczny); Inset: The town barn as it appeared in October 2022. FILE

Minden's town barn was mostly destroyed by a fire in the early hours of Sunday. (Photo courtesy Terry Potoczny); Inset: The town barn as it appeared in October 2022. FILE

MINDEN — Decades-old documents were turned to ash. Equipment was damaged. The meeting room was reduced to debris.

Much of Minden’s town barn was engulfed in flames early Sunday morning as fire crews from South Minden, Fort Plain, St. Johnsville, Ephratah, Canajoharie and Rural Grove arrived on the scene. Only one part of the three-section building was spared following a nearly three-hour firefight.

Nobody was injured.

For Minden Town Supervisor Cheryl Reese, that’s the biggest silver lining.

“This is the town of Minden family and we’ve lost our home,” said Reese. “And this is something that, I don’t even think it’s hit me yet because I’ve just been running on adrenaline right now, but there’s a lot that we have to do.”

Emergency crews were notified of the fire at 1:15 a.m, reported Fort Plain Fire Chief Bill Ehrenreich. Tires, diesel fuel, oil and “just the trucks themselves” accelerated the fire after the Highway Department garage’s roof collapsed, the fire chief said.

Montgomery County officials called in the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control to investigate the scene, as is protocol following seemingly costly fires. The probe remains ongoing.

The Highway Superintendents Association of Montgomery County is crafting a plan of action to help plow in the rural town following vehicle losses. Five plow trucks, a one-ton pickup truck, a John Deere tractor purchased earlier this year, a trailer and an excavator were ravaged by the fire.

“They told us ‘we got this, we’re going to help you get through this because there’s a snowstorm coming this week and roads are gonna need to be plowed,’” Reese said about the association.

Located above the decimated garage was a room containing payroll, employee and court records dating back as far as the early 1900s, all of which the blaze decimated. Current financial records have been digitally backed up.

Reese’s office and the assessor’s office were destroyed.

The court and clerk’s office suffered smoke and heat damage, but remained intact. The power was cut by National Grid and the boiler “burned up,” barring officials from occupying the remaining structure until further notice, Reese said.

“I personally think it’s salvageable,” said Ehrenreich. “I don’t know what the insurance company is going to do, but the departments, the crew members that were there made a great stop at holding it to the DPW garage and one other addition.”

Nelliston Mayor Debra Gros has offered temporary space for the clerk and potentially other town administrative officials at the nearby village hall across the Mohawk River. Minden attorney William J. Mycek is seeking to assess the legality of such a move first.

If they move in, the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings will “more than likely” also operate out of Nelliston Village Hall, according to Reese.

An investigator from New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal scanned the rubble on state Highway 80 throughout Sunday.

“To rebuild the building, it’s going to have to be engineered and designed to be in a floodplain,” said the supervisor. “As the insurance agent told me, this is a process that’s going to take some time.”

Reese, who also serves as clerk for the Montgomery County Legislature, plans to stay in town on Monday to assess matters related to the incident. She’s expected to meet with NYMIR and the Highway Department at 10 a.m. to learn about the cost of damage.

By the end of Sunday, Reese was exhausted. The supervisor, along with a number of town officials, were awake early Sunday to assess the situation at hand.

Minden Town Clerk Tammy Beauregard arrived at the fire around 2:30 a.m.

“You go and you want to do what you can,” Beauregard said. “Unfortunately there’s not a lot you can do.”

Beauregard anticipates temporary accommodations for visitors as tax season nears. She’s been in office for about a year now.

“Once we get a relocation spot, we can get set up and start running — as far as me — business as usual,” Beauregard said. “Of course, for our town guys, that’s not going to be for them.”

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil

Categories: -News-, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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