County executive: Rockland will launch criminal investigation into CSX following brush fires

At least 100 homes had to be evacuated due to the flames, which officials say took firefighters hours to put out.

News 12 Staff

Apr 15, 2023, 11:33 AM

Updated 405 days ago


Rockland County Executive Ed Day said they will launch an official criminal investigation into CSX after dozens of small fires burned through Congers, Haverstraw and Stony Point on Friday.
At least 100 homes had to be evacuated due to the flames, which officials say took firefighters hours to put out.
Day told News 12 that they had sent aid to help ongoing fires in Orange County. Westchester County and Bergen County came to assist when the brush fires broke out in Rockland County three hours later.
At one point, officials said there were 26 fire departments working to put out the fires.
Firefighters also had to return Saturday morning as hotspots began to spark back up.
Congers sustained the worst of the damage, according to residents in the area. Owners of a home on Hazen Lane said they were in the middle of renovating their house at the time of the fire. Their shed, which contained furniture and other items, was destroyed. Neighbors attempted to help extinguish the flames with hoses before firefighters arrived. However, a section of siding on the house was completely melted in the blaze.
In the aftermath of the fires, officials blamed the flames on sparks flying off one of CSX’s trains during its route.
Witnesses said they saw sparks come off the train in the area where the brush fires blazed.
"By the afternoon, the wind kicked in and just ignited this place,” said Congers resident Frank Voce.
Although CSX stated that they inspected their train and did not find any issues, Day said a criminal investigation is being launched.
"We lost between 50-70 acres; we have thousands of dollars’ of cost that we incurred here in Rockland County. Hundreds of lives were risked by this fire, not just residents but our volunteer firefighters, EMTs and law enforcement,” he said. “I don't want to hear from CSX, ‘oh well it's not my fault’. Something happened, and I expect an answer directly. If you don't give us an answer, we will find out through a criminal investigation."
The intersection of Route 9W and Route 304 was still closed northbound as of Saturday night.
"Route 9W at the Clarkstown border into Haverstraw is still closed. It will be closed well into Sunday. There's debris on the hillside that has to come down. Power lines are bing checked out," said Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoemann. He added that other road closures are expected to cause inconveniences for motorists.
"It's closed from Route 304/9W intersection and folks will have to re-route through Clarkstown and go all the way around to get out to 9W again. That's the area where flare-ups are still taking place," Hoemann said.
Hoemann added that crews on the scene are working to get the roadways re-opened and they are hoping to have that happen by Sunday night.

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