So that’s why they tell you, “don’t try this at home.” A 51-year-old man who wanted to replicate a blacksmithing technique he had seen on television instead sparked a massive blaze that damaged more than 20 buildings in his upstate New York town and landed him behind bars.
John Gomes of Cohoes set a barrel on fire in his backyard so that he could use it to forge a blade, just like he had seen the experts on History channel’s “Forged in Fire” do, the Times Union of Albany reported.
The fire quickly spread out of control after it was stoked by 20 to 30 mph winds sweeping through the area. Within hours, the inferno had completely destroyed three structures, damaged 18 others, and left nearly two dozen people homeless.
“It is the worst disaster the city has ever seen,” Mayor Shawn Morse said at an evening press conference after placing the city under a state of emergency.
Other than a firefighter who was hospitalized for unspecified reasons, no injuries were reported. Some of the city’s most well-known locations were badly damaged, while three fully city blocks had been inundated with smoke and flames.
“We often tell people we don’t allow open burns in the city and they often say, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’” said Assistant police Chief Tom Ross. “Well, this open burn just caused millions of dollars of damage and destroyed half our downtown.”
Gomes pleaded not guilty to charges of felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor arson and was jailed in lieu of $15,000 bail. He is due on court at 9:00 am on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. According to Gomes’ public defender, Gomes has lived in the town of roughly 17,000 residents since 1999 and has two children.