Gas Fire Destroys Two Local Businesses

Photo by Kristen Warfield.

At 2:48 a.m. on Feb. 7, the New Paltz Fire Department (NPFD) received a report of a structure fire at 91 N. Chestnut St. This was the location of an STS Tire & Auto Center franchise.

According to the statement addressing the incident, prior to the arrival of the NPFD, the New Paltz Police Department (NPPD) received a call for an intrusion alarm. Upon arriving, the NPPD saw heavy smoke and immediately called the NPFD, realizing it wasn’t an intrusion alarm, but rather a structure fire. The first person on the scene was Chief of NPFD Kevin Maguire, about five minutes after the call and found extremely heavy fire conditions venting out onto the street. Soon after, the firetrucks arrived to extinguish the fire.

“It took about 90 minutes to bring the fire under control. We then remained on the scene for about five hours,” Maguire said. “We were also assisted by the Highland, Modena and Gardiner fire departments. Also assisting at the scene was the New Paltz Police Department as well as the New Paltz Rescue Squad.”

According to the report, the fire was deemed accidental and was attributed to a gas leak from an overhead heater in the rear storage area where the business stores tires. One of the overhead gas heater’s pipes had broken for unknown reasons.

“The Ulster County Fire Investigation Team determined that there was a broken supply line to a gas heater which apparently found its ignition source,” Maguire said. “So it must have been leaking gas for X amount of time and once the fire got into the overhead storage of the tires, it was pretty much over, as tires burn exceptionally well.”

Assistant NPFD Chief Scott Schulte said in an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal that there was no one inside the building and no firefighters were injured.

“There was absolutely no suspicion of foul play,” Maguire said. “The fire was investigated by the county fire investigation unit, which is a county team of fire investigators.”

According to an article in The Daily Freeman, the fire also destroyed the New Paltz Climbing Cooperative, an indoor climbing gym, located in the same building as STS Tire & Auto Center.

Maguire, who has served as fire chief for about five years, explained that the NPFD is busier with fires in the winter because of heating issues such as wood stoves, furnaces, chimneys and gas leaks. Maguire said that the NPFD receives about 800 calls per year reporting fires. According to Maguire, the building was a total loss, but has yet to be demolished because the business’ insurance company wants to investigate further.