In the early hours of Monday morning, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, what started as a spark from faulty electrical wiring ended as a three-alarm blaze in the local Kingston music-equipment supply store and landmark Burt’s Electronics on Albany Avenue.
By the time the Kingston Fire Department could respond, there were already two separate fires burning on two separate floors of the large, wood-framed, multistory building.
Engine #1 was the first to respond to the scene. A pumper engine deployed a hose line to extinguish the initial fires while crews searched the building for occupants.
Under the falling snow, and despite the best efforts made by the firefighters in the frigid temperatures, the blaze spread up to the attic.
Before it was over, Kingston Fire would activate 23 personnel. Assistance was provided by the fire departments of Port Ewen, Stone Ridge and Esopus.
By 2:28 a.m., only 32 minutes after they had been alerted, the firefighters had extinguished the most serious flames. Crews moved through the building stamping out hidden or smoldering smaller fires.
Burt Penchansky, he of the eponymously named music-equipment supply store, which deals in new audio products, repairs and installation, was at his distant place of residence “awakened by a knock at the door in the early pre-dawn hours.” It was the police, alerting him to his misfortune.
At least no one had been asleep above the store. “There are apartments up there,” he said. “But they’ve been sitting empty, thank god.”
From the outside, only a few of the panes of glass had been shattered out of their frames. Many were still whole. And there was a spot where the soffits had become blackened and sooty. The fire must have burned out through the attic eaves.
In the front-most room, where the sales floor was located, a glass counter display and audio speakers were spared the worst of the fire and hose water. A sour campfire smell of creosote and ashes clung to the walls.
“I’ve been on this corner since 1978,” said Penchansky. “Only started calling it Burt’s since 1992. Now what do I do? I’m the lucky guy with the business that’s a total mess.”
The Kingston fire investigation unit gave the scene a once-over. They determined that the fire event had been accidental.