Can you have too many fire departments?

The Esopus fire department's impressive home in Ulster County. Photo via the Esopus Fire Department's website.

On Sunday, the Times Union dared to ask a troublemaking question in an editorial: In this era of budget-slashing, should we be cutting back on small-town fire departments?

From the editorial:

Under the best of circumstances, government consolidation inevitably touches some parochial nerves. Arguably, it doesn't get any more parochial than fire districts. They're typically made up of volunteers with a strong sense of mission, teamwork and fraternity. Often, firehouses aren't just a place to park the pumper. They're comfortable, even palatial, gathering spots with bars, pool tables and space for parties. Man (and, to be sure, woman) caves, with an attached garage. There are a lot of them -- 810 fire districts in the state, and 1,786 fire departments in all, according to the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control. That's more than the 1,550 cities, towns and villages they serve ...  Read more

School bus fire in Esopus

The Daily Freeman has the story (and some heart-stopping photos):

ST. REMY — Three students and the driver escaped a school bus fire Tuesday afternoon on Union Center Road in this town of Esopus hamlet, according to the St. Remy fire chief.

Michael Litts said the fire was reported about 4 p.m., and the engine compartment, at the rear of the vehicle, was “fully involved” when he arrived...

Hit-and-runs with panache

Two drivers in two counties took the hit-and-run to new places this past weekend. 

The first, a 20-year-old Narrowsburg man, reportedly hit a guardrail on Gables Road in the town of Tusten on Saturday, and then drove off. Not only did Victor J. Chmura drive off, State Police report, he allegedly was later caught on video driving so fast that his car caught air for a few moments before gouging the asphalt on its landing. Here's the press release in full:

Narrowsburg man charged after accident.  Read more

The hills are alive

Nadya Hall, in pink, plays Liesl, and Edith Lerner, in white, plays Maria, in the Onteora Central School's production of The Sound of Music. J'nae Gibbs (left) and Jacquelyn Garraffa (right) play the two nuns.

This Thursday, the halls of Onteora Middle School and High School will be ringing with Mary Martin and Julie Andrews standards. Scores of students will act and play in the orchestra of the school's production of The Sound of Music, which will be playing through the weekend.

In a press release, Jean Rose, the show's director, is promising great things:

“In all my years at Onteora, this cast is attaining the highest levels of performance that I have ever seen.  They are sublime.” 

Shows run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2pm. For more info, check out the Onteora Central School's website.

Fire kills animals at Catskill ranch and zoo

The Daily Mail reports that Bailiwick Ranch, a zoo in the town of Catskill in Greene County, lost a bunch of animals in a fire in the property's reptile house last night:

“It’s upsetting,” said Garry Koschitzki, the facility’s owner. “You come home and it’s gone.”

He said most of the reptiles usually housed in the enclosure were not in there at the time because of the colder weather, but other animals, including baby chicks, ducks, a couple of small turtles and a snake were among those killed.

The paper reports that two macaws survived the fire, which was caused by an electrical malfunction.

Another Rte. 17 driver breaks the 100mph barrier

There's something about Rte. 17 and egregious speeding.

Sean FlahertySean Flaherty: Photo via NYSPAccording to the State Police, 21-year-old Sean E. Flaherty of New Hampshire was caught doing 121 mph on the highway in a brand-new Audi on Sunday. The police think that the mixture of pot and pulverized Percocet pills they reportedly found in the vehicle may have had something to do with Flaherty's speed.

Flaherty isn't the first to be accused of abusing the accelerator on Rte. 17. Last month, State Police caught another driver blitzing by their barracks on the highway at 104mph. And last fall, Rte. 17 was overrun with over 100 fancy sports cars, all going well above 65 mph.

Here's the full press release on Flaherty:

121 mph and drugs lands New Hampshire man in jail Sunday, April 24, 2011 

A Trooper out of SP Liberty observed a 2011 Audi A3 traveling at 121 mph in a 65 mph zone on State Rte 17. Upon stopping the vehicle the Trooper noticed the odor of marijuana inside the vehicle. A search of the car led to the discovery of crushed Percoset pills & marijuana. The driver, Sean E. Flaherty, age 21 of Fitzwilliam, NH was charged with Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th and the misdemeanor Speeding. He was arraigned before Town of Liberty T/J Bauman and remanded to the Sullivan Co Jail in lieu of $1500 bail returnable on April 26, 2011.

Burning Nissan car carrier blocks Kingston Thruway for hours

A car carrier loaded with nine vehicles burned for hours on the Thruway just south of Kingston yesterday, closing traffic in both directions for much of the afternoon, according to a press release from the State Police.

Several of the cars being hauled reportedly exploded, spewing debris over both lanes, as firefighters from multiple departments battled the flames. No injuries were reported. The Daily Freeman has some pretty stunning photographs.

Here's the full press release from the State Police:  Read more

Man killed by train in Esopus; brother injured

Tragedy struck in Esopus this afternoon when 22-year-old Thomas Heil was struck and killed by a CSX train. His brother, 20-year-old Christopher Heil, was also on the tracks, and sustained a shoulder injury.

The press release from the Ulster County Sheriff's Department:

Detectives from the Ulster County Sheriff's Office report the death of an Esopus man following an accident whereby he was struck by a locomotive. At approximately 3:30 this afternoon, deputies responded to the area about one half mile south of the rail crossing at Floyd Ackert Road in West Park. Deputies discovered Thomas H. Heil, 22, of Esopus and his brother, Christopher Heil, 20, also of Esopus, on the western edge of the rail line. Both were transported to Saint Francis Hospital, where Christopher was treated for a shoulder injury and Thomas was pronounced dead on arrival.  Read more

Irish-American museum pulls up stakes and moves to Albany

In the Albany Times-Union today: The Irish American Heritage Museum, which has been a summer fixture in the Catskills town of Durham for 25 years, is moving to Albany and will be open year-round.

It's an exciting move for the museum, which up til now has been open only seasonally. But alas, the decision to move the museum was spurred on by a steady dropoff in visitors to the museum, and the little Irish-American hamlet of East Durham in general:

The museum previously occupied a house in East Durham in the so-called "Irish Alps" among a cluster of Irish bars and shops. The Greene County community was re-settled in recent decades by retired police and firefighters of Irish heritage from New York City.  Read more

Living in the yogurt belt

Greek-style yogurt with cinnamon. Photo by Flickr user thepinkpeppercorn.

On Saturday, the Daily Star ran a story about the odd phenomenon of yogurt companies taking our region by storm.

Chenango County, the paper reported, is home to not one, but two popular European-style yogurt companies: Chobani, which makes Greek yogurt, and Sunrise Family Farms, which makes Icelandic skyr:

And in Norwich, at Sunrise Family Farms, Icelandic native Siggi Hilmarsson produces Siggi's Icelandic-style skyr yogurt.

Skyr is strained yogurt, where the whey is removed, leaving a creamy yet non-fat milk product.

"It's been a tradition in Iceland for a thousand years," said Elmond Clark, who oversees production of Siggi's at Sunrise Family Farms' creamery in Norwich, a facility opened by Dave and Sue Evans in 2004.  Read more