COHOES, New York — A rampaging fire started by a man imitating a TV show about forging swords ripped through the downtown of an upstate New York city, wrecking 32 buildings and causing millions of dollars of damage.
Authorities say John Gomes, a 51-year-old amateur bladesmith, had started a fire in a barrel in his backyard to bend metal on Thursday, but the blaze spread to nearby buildings due to winds that were blowing up to 30 miles per hour.
Flames quickly jumped from building to building, eventually engulfing structures across three city blocks. It took six hours for firefighters to get the blaze under control. Several prominent businesses were destroyed and a church was heavily damaged. In all 20 people were displaced, but miraculously, no one was hurt.
“We often tell people we don’t allow open burns in the city and they often say, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?'” Mayor Shawn Morse said, according to the Albany Times Union. “Well, this open burn just caused millions of dollars of damage and destroyed half our downtown.”
Gomes, who said he was inspired by the History Channel show “Forged in Fire,” was charged with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor arson. He was held on $15,000 bail.
“My client is a father of two and a hard-working plumber,” Gomes’ lawyer, Christopher Ritchey said. “This was an unfortunate, terrible accident, not a crime.”