Charlie Kraebel/Recorder editor The charred remains of a camping vehicle is shown Wednesday outside of Alpin Haus on Route 5S in the town of Florida.
By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Authorities are investigating a massive fire that destroyed three recreational vehicles and damaged four at Alpin Haus on Route 5S in Wednesday's predawn hours.
Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow said fire investigators narrowed the area of origin to the center of an RV.
Sheriff's Investigator Roberto Gracia said the RV was a 2004 model that had an estimated value of $150,000. He said it was privately-owned, and had been left at the dealership for service that was completed in February.
When asked if the fire was considered suspicious, Gracia said, "We consider all fires suspicious until we can prove its origin."
He said all parties are cooperating with the investigation.
There were no reported injuries in the incident, which dispatched the Fort Hunter Fire Department to the scene at roughly 1:35 a.m., said Chief Tim Haegi.
Sheriff Michael Amato said reports indicate firefighters cleared about 5:06 a.m. His investigators responded by roughly 8 a.m., and a responding overnight sergeant called in state fire investigators to assist.
Amato said investigators checked video surveillance from Target Distribution Center, which is across the road from Alpin Haus. He said Target has an extensive video system.
"I do have some video of something I consider to be interesting," Gracia said. "I need to investigate some things before I can determine whether it's related to the fire."
Haegi, who'd been on the scene eight hours by roughly 9:30 this morning, said a camper, a trailer and an RV were destroyed, and two RVs and two campers were damaged by smoke and water.
"One of the extinguishing factors was the propane tanks in the campers that helped spread the fire," Haegi said, adding the responding departments used water from tankers and Route 5S' municipal supply to knock it down.
Schwabrow said he could see the blaze from Hill & Markes while driving eastbound toward the scene on Route 5S.
"When I came up the hill, all I could see was an orange glow in the sky, and a huge plume of smoke," he said. "If you think about it, RVs are plastic and rubber, which is why there was such a massive plume. When I got to the top of the hill, the flames were above the Alpin Haus building."
Haegi said Fort Hunter received a volume of mutual aid from departments in Tribes Hill, town of Florida, Hagaman, Cranesville, Fultonville and Glen. Additionally, town of Mohawk Fire Department provided fire police officers to shut down Route 5S and reroute traffic while the fire was extinguished, and Pattersonville, Mariaville, Rural Grove and Canajoharie were on standby.
Alpin Haus President Andy Heck said no employees were present when the fire broke out.
Heck praised the Fort Hunter Fire Company and its aiding departments.
"This is all really upsetting and scary, but Fort Hunter did an awesome job," Heck said.
The Route 5S facility was constructed in 2002, and opened in 2003. Heck said there are roughly 300 RVs in the yard.
According to the company's website, Alpin Haus is one of America's largest RV dealers, named top five RV dealer by RV Business Magazine.