By By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder
MINDEN — Wind-driven flames Saturday destroyed what had quickly become a familiar landmark on state Route 5S between Airport and Sanders roads in the town of Minden, and State Police are seeking the assistance of anyone who might have information about the incident.
The empty cow barn at 7145 state Route 5S, from which 51 canines were removed during a State Police investigation early last month, was leveled by a fast-moving blaze Saturday morning. As noted by Fort Plain Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Smith, it was the third such incident at that location in recent weeks.
No one currently resides at the residence at that address.
State Police Investigator Wayne Matice Saturday afternoon said the fire has been deemed suspicious. The point of origin is still under investigation.
Anyone who believes they might have information is asked to call State Police at Fonda at 853-3742. Callers’ identities can remain confidential, he said, noting, “Any information will be helpful.”
The pre-dawn fire — reported to Montgomery County’s 911 dispatch center at around 5 a.m. by a nearby resident and subsequently by a snowplow operator, said Matice — sent a shower of glowing embers into the snow-filled sky.
Smith said the shell of the two-story barn was still standing when fire Chief Brian Muehleck arrived at the scene; however, “once it opened up, it went very quickly,” he said.
Within minutes, the roof had collapsed into the interior. The outline of a silo, an adjacent garage/shed, billowing smoke, and burning first-story timbers were all that remained in the bitterly-cold, snow-drifted landscape.
Smith said personnel from Canajoharie, St. Johnsville and South Minden fire departments were called as a precaution. Once it was realized nothing could be done, they were released.
Fort Plain firefighters remained at that location to direct traffic and to make sure the fire didn’t spread to the adjacent building. They subsequently turned the scene over to State Police investigators, who have been involved with the two prior arson investigations.
No arrests have been made in connection with the fire incidents; however three people were recently charged in relation to the dog investigation.
Others responding to the pre-dawn fire Saturday included Montgomery County Fire Coordinator Dale Furman, whom Smith said routinely responds any time there’s a call for mutual aid; the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office; personnel from Mid-County and Rural/Metro Ambulance; and National Grid.
Matice said State Police were assisted by officials with the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, who brought a canine to the scene.
It was one of three fires reported in the county overnight. Matice said the other fires, which took place in Charleston and Fultonville, are not believed to be related.
Smith said the wind, which caused the fire to race through the structure, and the cold were issues; however no injuries or additional problems were reported. Firefighters cleared the scene at around 8 a.m.