Linda Kellett/For the Recorder
Fort Plain firefighters, Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies and State Police gather at the scene of a reported barn fire at 7145 state Highway 5S at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday—the second fire call at that address in less than 24 hours. Earlier this month, it was the scene of the removal of more than 50 dogs and puppies, mostly of the pit bull breed, by a number of area law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing.
By LINDA KELLETT/For the Recorder
MINDEN — State Police investigators are probing two fires of suspicious origin that took place at 7145 state Highway 5S less than 24 hours apart this weekend.
The first incident at the town of Minden location was logged by State Police out of Fonda as taking place at 6:45 p.m. Friday. It was labeled in the newsroom blotter as an “arson-motor vehicle/structure” fire.
While no address was provided in the report, a Fort Plain fire official confirmed the fire was at the same address as the seizure of over 50 dogs and puppies by law enforcement officials earlier this month.
The second incident, reported at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, was reported as a barn fire at the Route 5S location between Sanders and Airport roads.
By the time fire officials arrived at the scene, the fire had been extinguished, said a firefighter early Saturday morning.
Fort Plain 1st Assistant Chief David Bouck confirmed that Saturday night, saying, “When we got there the fire was out.” Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies also responded to the scene.
Bouck said the fire was located outside the barn.
Upon arrival, firefighters walked around and through the structure to check for other problems. Any damage to the exterior siding was slight, Bouck said, noting that the fire was on the road side of the structure.
He wasn’t sure who reported the blaze.
Because of the “liabilities involved” and the nature of the multiple investigations at that location, firefighters turned the fire investigation over to the State Police, said Bouck.
Bouck said, “At this point in time, the whole situation out there being what it is, everything is still under investigation. It was turned over to State Police. They’re handling the whole thing due to law enforcement actions at that particular address.”
He said State Police have their own fire investigators.
Charges are still pending in connection with the early-January removal of canines from the barn.
Trooper Mark Cepiel, the Troop G public information officer for the New York State Police, could not be reached for comment about the most recent developments.
Earlier this month, however, he confirmed that no arrests had yet been made in the matter, which stemmed from numerous recent complaints received by State Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Plain Police Department about the canines’ reported living conditions there.
Officials from the three agencies responded to 7145 state Highway 5S on Jan. 2 to execute a search warrant at the barn. The last of the canines was removed from the premises by 9 p.m. the next night.
Most of the dogs were of the pit bull breed.
According to State Police, officials executing the search warrant allegedly found uninhabitable conditions in the barn, which contained dogs suffering from “various health-related issues including frostbite, open sores and worms.”
The alleged conditions included “an unheated and element-exposed structure, frozen water, a deceased canine, and many of the canines lying in fecal matter,” State Police reported.
Several people are involved with the property, said Cepiel.
The owner of some of the dogs, who was identified in e-mails from animal rights advocates as Joseph Marriott, has hired civil rights attorney Elmer Robert “Bob” Keach III of Amsterdam to represent him in an effort to get his dogs back. Keach maintains the manner of the canines’ treatment was not illegal under Agriculture and Markets Law.
Currently, the dogs are being cared for by a number of shelters and agencies contacted for assistance in housing the animals on a temporary basis.