A massive fire broke out on Remsen Street in Cohoes on Thursday afternoon, impacting approximately 20 buildings.
It began on 228 Remsen Street in the city. At least 100 firefighters between Saratoga and Albany were on scene, according to Cohoes Fire Chief Joseph Fahd, who says it started around 2 p.m., and approximately 25 people have been directly impacted by the fire, according to Mayor Shawn Morse.
"You can't help but to feel sad for your city. We're just a couple of weeks away from Christmas, and we have a lot of people displaced," Morse said. "We've been working 18-hour days to rebuild Remsen Street, and so you really feel bad.
"I know we'll overcome this. This is what we do in Cohoes."
A 51-year-old man was arraigned in city court Thursday night and charged with fourth degree arson and first degree reckless endangerment for allegedly starting the fire.
The American Red Cross said Thursday night that 16 adults and two children are receiving assistance. Morse has declared a state of emergency in the city, asking residents to avoid downtown completely. There may also be parking restrictions.
"The conditions were so bad that you saw a lot of hot spots and fires starting a block away," said Assemblyman John McDonald, a former Cohoes mayor who owns Marra's Pharmacy, which is located close to the fire. "One of the churches a block behind us, near the library, started on fire. So this has been a very tough situation with the conditions that they're dealing with."
McDonald later posted on social media that Marra's "has no damage except smoke."
One resident, John Gomes, wasn't there when his home burned to the ground, but he said his sister and dog were and made it out safely.
"I was on my way home from a doctor's appointment and I got a phone call, and it was someone telling me my house was on fire," Gomes said. "The first one, I honestly didn't believe until multiple people started to call me. At that point, I got a call from my sister's best friend, who was already at the site, telling me my dog was still inside.
"It was a tough scene to deal with, because if you look, my house isn't even on fire anymore. My house is on the ground."
Spectrum News' Jackson Wang reported via Twitter that winds were initially making it difficult for firefighters to control the flames as they try to keep the fire from spreading across the street. Meanwhile, our Jaclyn Cangro reported via Twitter that two residents, who said they were knocking on doors to help people get away from the fire, saw Mayor Shawn Morse doing the same.