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What you need to know for 10/19/2017

Knox man sent to prison for torching home

Knox man sent to prison for torching home

The man who burned down his Knox home and held police and firefighters at bay with threats of gunfir
Knox man sent to prison for torching home
Kenneth Fortuin was sentenced to prison Thursday for setting fire to his home and several nearby buildings in Knox in February and then holding firefighters at bay to prevent them from putting the blazes out.

The man who burned down his Knox home and held police and firefighters at bay with threats of gunfire will spend the next 2 1⁄3 to seven years in prison.

Kenneth Fortuin, 49, was sentenced Thursday morning in Albany County Court on a felony arson charge but given a conditional discharge on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing firefighting operations. He also was ordered to pay $149,624.54 for damages he caused.

He had pleaded guilty to both charges in April before Judge Peter A. Lynch.

Fortuin instigated an 8-hour standoff with state troopers and Albany County sheriff’s deputies Feb. 5 after he set fire to a century-old farmhouse, barn, outbuildings and equipment he once shared with his estranged wife, Andrea. He then proceeded to cut down trees so they blocked the roadway leading to the property, making it hard for firefighters to get in.

He even called dispatchers to warn them not to send firefighters, saying he had a loaded handgun and would shoot any firefighter who came onto his property.

The scene had the potential to be a repeat of a 2012 ambush near Rochester, where a gunman set his home on fire then shot at responding firefighters, killing two and wounding three others before killing himself. But this time, state police negotiators started a dialogue with Fortuin and ended the standoff peacefully and without any injuries.

State police spokesman Mark Cepiel said after the Knox incident the fires were spread out and appeared to have been started independently.

“It wasn’t a case of one starting and then spreading to others,” he said. “There were no fire operations to combat them.”

Fortuin was in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife at the time. The Fortuins were set to close on the sale of the Knox property when Kenneth Fortuin burned it to the ground, including assets his estranged wife had been trying to sell.

Andrea Fortuin owns Orenda Yoga & Healing Arts on lower Union Street in Schenectady. Kevin Brown, owner of the nearby Cafe NOLA, held a fundraiser for her and her two teenage children later in February.

“It’s a messy situation with her husband, and she has told me things in confidence over the years about it,” Brown said at the time, declining to discuss it further. “I’ve consoled her, and she’s consoled me.”

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