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Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

Man charged with DWI following accident that sends him to the hospital

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield

A Batavia man was charged with DWI following a three-car accident in Oakfield yesterday that sent him to UMMC with non-life threatening injuries.

None of the other people in the other two cars were taken to the hospital following the accident, though two people are listed as injured on the Sheriff's Office report.

John B. Lepkowski, 48, was reportedly driving south on Route 63 when his 2002 Ford sedan drifted into the northbound lane.

The accident occurred at 3:52 p.m.

His car sideswiped a 2008 Chevy SUV driven by Peter S. Neer, 59, of East Bethany. The Ford then collided head on with a 2009 Chevy SUV driven by John Martello, 64, of Wayland.

Martello and his passenger, Linda S. Martello, 64, both reported minor injuries.

John F. Crable, 59, was a passenger in Neer's car.

Lepkowski was charged with DWI, failure to keep right and driving left of pavement markings.

Photo submitted by Tom Smith.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 8:54 am

Massive tree limb down in St. Joe's cemetery

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, St. Joseph Cemetary


Among the wind damage from Saturday was a massive tree limb that came down in St. Joe's cemetery on Harvester Avenue. As of yesterday evening, it hadn't been removed yet. The limb knocked askew several headstones when it fell.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

Police Beat: Reported domestic fight leads to alleged drug arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, alexander, crime, pembroke

Joshua Stanley Martaus, 26, of Batavia, is charged with possession of a hypodermic instrument, possession of a controlled substance not in its original container and harassment, 2nd. Martaus was arrested at 3:30 a.m., today, following an investigation into a domestic incident on Overlook Drive in Batavia. Martaus was accused of dragging a woman by the hair down a hallway.

A 16-year-old Byron girl is charged with harassment, 2nd. The girl allegedly punched her foster sister in the face. Following arraignment, she was released to the custody of the Department of Social Services.

Richard R. Klaver, 49, of Medina, is charged with two counts of official misconduct, promotion of prison contraband, 1st, and possession of narcotics with intent to sell. The arrest and incident location is in the Town of Pembroke on May 7. Klaver was jailed on an unspecified cash bail. The State Police released no further information on this arrest.

Daniel J. Youll, 46, of Alexander, is charged with DWI and aggravated DWI. Youll was stopped by State Police at 1:42 a.m., Saturday, in the area of 3242 Stannard Road, Alexander.

Accidents from the State Police blotter:

6:34 a.m., May 10, Donahue Road, Batavia, one vehicle; Driver 1: Dennis R. Say, 39, of Batavia. No injuries reported.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Mancuso: Destruction of Wiard Plow building is set back for redevelopment

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, fire, Masse Gateway Project, Wiard Plow


The destruction of one of the Wiard Plow buildings in a massive fire Saturday will have the Mancuso Business Development Group going back to the drafting table, said owner Tom Mancuso on Monday night.

The very structure that was destroyed, despite its deteriorated condition, was a key building in redevelopment plans, Mancuso said.

"There's a lot to sort out and I still haven't processed it all yet," Mancuso said. "We need to understand what steps we need to take. We'll need to take some time and re-evaluate the viability of redevelopment."

Mancuso and the City of Batavia received a grant from RestoreNY for the Masse Gateway Project last year, which is the first phase of redevelopment of the million-plus square feet of industrial buildings that encompass the Harvester Center, the Masse building and the Wiard Plow structures.

Masse Gateway is intended to open an attractive entryway, featuring renovated Masse buildings off of Masse Place, into the entire Masse-Harvester-Wiard complex.

While the fire won't disrupt the Masse Gateway plans, Mancuso said, the building that was destroyed would have been redeveloped as early as phase two, and certainly by phase three.

The building was included in a RestoreNY grant that was rejected by the state a few years ago, Mancuso said, stressing its importance to his redevelopment plans.

"Now we have to move forward," Mancuso said. "I just don't know as we speak what that looks like."

The Wiard Plow building loss was a stunning blow, Mancuso admitted. When the buildings were acquired by the Mancuso Group in the 1980s it was with the intention to eventually redevelop the property, he said.

Mancuso even turned down offers a few years ago from construction firms that wanted to recover the beams in the building. Those developers offered to take the building down at no cost just to remove the heavy timber, but Mancuso turned down those offers because redevelopment rather than destruction was the goal.

"We bought the building to keep it from being torn down, so it is hard," Mancuso said. "It's not the way we wanted to see it go."

As for the bricks, which some people have speculated have some value, he said those evaluations might be overstated, but he would certainly entertain purchase offers for the old masonry.

Even as he takes a look at the viability of redevelopment, Mancuso said he is hopeful there will be a way to move forward.

UPDATE: In a comment on another post, Dennis Wight posted a link to the Masse Swan Village planning document (PDF) available on the City of Batavia's Web site. It clearly shows that the building destroyed in the fire was not intended to be one of the buildings left standing in the renovated complex. When we spoke last night, Tom Mancuso said he was leaving town for a few days. I have, however, left messages for him. I'll try to clarify this issue with him the next time we can talk.

Photo: One of the last photos ever taken from inside the Wiard Plow factory. It was snapped by The Batavian following a 1:40 p.m. fire on Saturday -- six hours before the second, more destructive fire. For the other three final photos available, click here

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Interviews ongoing in Wiard Plow fire investigation

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow

Four or five people were interviewed Saturday in connection with the Wiard Plow fire, which police are calling "suspicious," but stressing there is yet no direct evidence that the fire was set intentionally.

"We don't know if anybody was involved," said Det. Kevin Czora. "Again, it hasn't been ruled accidental and it hasn't been ruled intentional."

There is no evidence, according to a Batavia Police news release this afternoon, that the large inferno of Saturday night was the result of lingering embers from a fire earlier Saturday at the same location.

Fire officials stress that the location was checked by several fire personnel after the fire, and a fire investigator even returned to the scene an hour after the first fire was extinguished to continue his investigation. He saw nothing to suggest there was anything left smoldering.

Non-department witnesses were also in the building after the first fire and saw nothing to suggest the fire wasn't anything but completely extinguished.

The building was without electrical power, so a short or other electrical problem has been ruled out as a cause of the fire.

A reader of The Batavian reported seeing two youths running from the scene at the start of the second fire.

There have been no arrests in the case and Czora said that right now the police are just talking with individuals about what they may know or what they saw. None of the subjects are considered suspects at this time.

"We're continuing to do interviews and, where they may lead or not lead, we'll just have to wait and see," Czora said.

Lt. James Steinbrenner is continuing his investigation for the fire department. It will be up to him to determine the cause and origin of the fire. He was unavailable for comment this afternoon.

Earlier, Steinbrenner told The Batavian that it was unclear if the first fire was set intentionally or accidentally. There was evidence of casual use of fire in the building (such as four small birthday candles laying down with the burned ends hanging off a table in a room adjacent to where the fire started). The fire did not fit the profile of arson, Steinbrenner noted, because it occurred during the day and there was no accelerant used to fuel the fire.

The first fire, which was reported about 1:40 p.m., was a small fire contained to an abandoned office filled with reams and reams of old files.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm

A flat tire, broken jack and blood on third car discussed at Scott Doll trial

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- The Pontiac G6 that may have been at the heart of an alleged dispute between Scott Doll and Joseph Benaquist had a flat tire when the Sheriff's Office took it into evidence following the discovery of Benaquist's body lying in a pool of blood in his own driveway on Feb. 16, 2009.

A Nissan Altima parked next to the G6 had a broken jack laying behind the front passenger tire when Investigator Timothy Weis took photographs of the scene as he gathered evidence that night, Weis testified today.

Weis was the first witness called today by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman after Sgt. Steve Mullen finished testimony he started Friday.

At one point, while still on the stand, Weis held up the broken jack to show jurors. He said two pivot points were turned in. The jack was "not functional," he said.

Friedman also showed Weis photographs Weis said he took of the side and undercarriage of the Altima. He had Weis circle two spots where Weis said he found blood stains, including one on the undercarriage.

The bloody imprints of sneakers were found on the driveway between the two cars.  There was a battery-dead flashlight on the driveway between a pickup truck, parked in front of the Altima and the G6.

Scott Doll is accused of murdering Benaquist. He was taken into custody the night of the murder after being found walking north on North Lake Road in old tennis shoes carrying a jack and lug wrench.

There was a Ford Windstar registered to Doll's mother parked at an old gas station at the corner of Main and North Lake roads in Pembroke.

That location is 17 minutes, walking, according to Google Maps, from 693 Knapp Road, where Benaquist's body was found.

Today, Friedman introduced photographic and blood evidence -- with Weis verifying that he collected the evidence -- showing blood drops and smears on the interior and exterior of the Windstar.

Weis also testified that the jack was missing from the Windstar and that the jack Doll was found carrying matched the same kind of jack Weis is familiar with from Windstars he's previously owned.

Weis recalled precisely, without consulting notes, the mileage of the G6 (23,633) and a Chevy Malibu (73,801).

During pre-trial motions, Friedman said the G6 and Malibu were key pieces of evidence in the case.

"We anticipate that it will be established that it was these very cars that led to the murder of Joseph Benaquist," Friedman said.

Friedman said that Benaquist had bought the car using Doll's account at the Adesa auto auction for his own personal use and paid $10,000 toward the $13,300 purchase, but that Doll never delivered the $10,000 to the financing company.

Doll's defense Attorney Paul Cambria disputed that assertion prior to the trial.

In opening remarks, Cambria opened the door to speculation that Doll's son, Josh, may have been at the murder scene before Scott Doll. Cambria, saying that Scott Doll found Benaquist just before he died and that Benaquist's final words were, "The boy. The boy."

Cambria said it was Josh who normally did business with Benaquist and Doll only went to Benaquist's home after Benaquist and Josh failed to bring the G6 to the Adesa auction house, as he said Benaquist had agreed to do.

Today, Friedman introduced into evidence Benaquist's driver's license and an access pass to the Adesa auction in the name of Doll's other son, Brandon. The two documents were found by the coroner in Benaquist's wallet.

As for Mullen's testimony, there was a point where Mullen apparently thought he was being asked a question about a forensic examination of Scott Doll's mobile phone and discussed such an examination. The question was actually about whether there was an examination of Joseph Benaquist's phone.

After Mullen stepped down, the attorneys conferred with Judge Robert Noonan and then Noonan instructed jurors that the attorneys wanted to clarify that Benaquist's was not examined.

The trial was resuming at 2 p.m. with Weis returning to the stand for further direct questioning by Friedman.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 11:57 am

Juror admonished for sleeping during Scott Doll murder trial

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

Juror Number 8 is having a hard time staying awake.

He's been seen several times doing a head bob on Friday and today, and often has his eye closed.

His apparent inattentiveness has come to the attention of Judge Robert C. Noonan who informed attorneys during a break -- with the jury out of the courtroom -- that he felt he should talk with the juror.

Defense Attorney Paul Cambria said he was concerned about singling out just one juror, even when not in front of the other jurors. He asked Noonan just to instruct the jury to pay better attention and ask for more frequent breaks if needed. He said he didn't think it should be assumed Juror 8 is falling asleep.

Noonan said he's seen the head bobs.

As the juror was being summoned to the courtroom, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman asked that the conversation with the juror be held in the judge's chambers. Noonan agreed to an on-the-record conversation with the juror, in his chambers.

When the jurors re-entered the courtroom, Juror 8 was still on the panel.

When the jurors came back, Noonan reminded them that while not everything that goes on during the trial is "the most scintillating," it is important they pay attention, and they should ask for breaks when needed so they can maintain their attention during testimony.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9:58 am

Guilty plea of man accused of robbery in Byron may not stand

post by Howard B. Owens in byron, crime

Darrell Bruce Reid, 45, of 4 N. Main St., Holley, came to court this morning, apparently ready to plead guilty to assault in the second degree -- a charge stemming from an alleged robbery in Byron in which Reid allegedly stole three long guns.

mug_darrell_reid.jpgBut the guilty plea process didn't proceed like clockwork, which is usually the case.

First, Reid had a protracted whisper conversation with his public defender, William Teford, when Judge Robert C. Noonan informed Reid of the maximum penalty -- four years in State Prison -- for the assault, 2nd, charge he was about to admit.

After the conversation, Reid softly said, "yes" to Noonan, acknowledging the Judge's warning.

Noonan made note for the record of the long conversation.

A few minutes later, Reid entered his guilty plea and made a factual admission to hitting a Byron resident with a 22-caliber rifle.

At the end of the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell asked the judge to make the factual finding that the assault, 2nd, charge is a second felony offense. But when Judge Noonan reviewed the paperwork, he noted that the only prior conviction listed was a 22-year-old DWI conviction. That can't count as a second felony offense for sentencing purposes under state law.

Finnell said it was a mistake and that he would have further information today on Reid's criminal history.

During Reid's last court appearance, on May 3, Noonan noted that Reid had more than 100 prior arrests.

If it turns out there are no qualifying felony convictions within Reid's recent history, his guilty plea this morning will not be valid, according to Noonan.

Another appearance in County Court for Reid was set for later this week.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 9:23 am

O-A teacher admits to misconduct, but not to sexual contact with student

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield, oakfield-alabama

A former Oakfield-Alabama band teacher admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a student on Thursday thereby avoiding trial on the more serious charge of sexual abuse, 3rd.

Kerry Hoffman entered guilty pleas in Oakfield Town Court to endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct.

He will be required to give up his teaching credentials under the terms of the plea agreement, according to Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell.

Hoffman made factual admissions, according to Finnell, of making several phone calls and sending several text messages to a teenage student, and to taking her to the mall without her parents permission. But he did not admit to inappropriate touching and kissing, which the girl claimed happened.

Under terms of the agreement, Hoffman will serve two months intermittent incarceration and three years probation.

Monday, May 10, 2010 at 8:29 am

Police Beat: Stafford man accused of using shotgun during domestic dispute

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Bethany, crime, Darien, Le Roy, Stafford

Jeffrey M. Kohorst, 21, of 6105 Main Road, Stafford, is charged with menacing and reckless endangerment. Kohorst is accused of getting into a domestic dispute with a former girlfriend and her current boyfriend at the Kohorst residence. While the former girlfriend removed her property from the residence, Kohorst allegedly retrieved a shotgun from inside his home and confronted the new boyfriend demanding that he leave the property. Kohorst allegedly followed his threat by firing one shot in the direction of, and in close proximity to, the boyfriend. Kohorst was jailed on $15,000 bail.

Frank E. Finnin, 44, of 10 S. Main St., Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Finnin reportedly was wanted on a warrant out of City Court for failure to answer an alleged petit larceny charge. Finnin was spotted by Officer Dan Coffey at 10:15 a.m., Friday, walking on West Main Street.

Timothy Lee Taylor, 35, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt. Taylor is accused of violating an order of protection out of Family Court that limited the number of calls he could make to his ex-girlfriend. Taylor allegedly made more than 355 calls over an unspecified amount of time.

Scot G. Judd, 27, of Albion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Judd was arrested at 9:47 p.m., Wednesday, by Deputy Kevin McCarthy, who was conducting an investigation at the Mark Trial Hotel when he found Judd allegedly in possession of marijuana.

Elizabeth Anne Holly, 46, of Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08, driving left of the pavement markings. Holly was stopped by Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello at 2:14 a.m., May 1, for allegedly crossing the double-yellow lines as she exited Valu Plaza on West Main Street.

Taheed Makal Moffett, 25, of Rochester, is charged with conspiracy, 5th. Moffett is accused of conspiring with another person in Genesee County Jail to promote prision contraband. No further details were released.

Jeffery Matthew Kaczmarek, 41, of Darien, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, driving left of the pavement markings, moving from lane unsafely. Kaczmarek was stopped by Deputy Jason Saile at 2:26 a.m, Saturday, on Route 20 in Alexander.

Michael James Killigrew, 21, of Corning, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08, and moving from lane unsafely. Killigrew was arrested by Deputy Jason Saile at 2:55 a.m., Saturday, on Route 20 in Bethany following a report of a one-car accident. Killigrew reportedly swerved to avoid striking a deer and his car wound up in a ditch.

Jason Guy Nichols, 37, of Batavia, is charged with criminal trespass and harassment. Nichols is accused of entering a residence on East Main Street in Batavia without permission. While inside he allegedly harassed a woman during a domestic dispute. At his arraignment in Batavia Town Court, an order of protection was issued.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Margarita's, Main St., Alex's and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you wantto eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Main St. Pizza Company, 206 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Pizza, wings, subs and even hamburgers and hot dogs, Main St. Pizza makes everything deliciously. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Settler's Restaurant, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Give yourself the gift of flowers, or give to a friend. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.


Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

More reader photos: Wiard Plow fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, photos, Wiard Plow


Reader Carl Szalbak submitted these photos from last night's Wiard Plow factory fire.





Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Several homes in Genesee County still without power

post by Howard B. Owens in National Grid, weather

More than 20 hours after a major wind storm blew through Genesee County, power is still out at 18 locations, the largest effecting 166 National Grid customers in Bethany, according to the utility's website.

The other 17 or so outage spots effect fewer than five customers each, according to the site.

In each case, National Grid estimates that power will be returned to these locations by 11 p.m.

There are two remaining outage spots in the City of Batavia and two in the Village of Le Roy. In all four cases, fewer than five customers are without power.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Batavia Fire back on scene at Wiard to douse hot spot

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow


Batavia Fire's Engine 12 was back on scene this afternoon after smoke started to rise from the rubble near the still intact part of the structure. While smoldering wood has been allowed burn well away from the remaining structure, firefighters were concerned this was a little too close. 

Curious area residents continue to drive by the Swan Street scene on a regular basis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Area residents coming out to see ruins of Wiard Plow factory

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Wiard Plow


As a few last whiffs of smoke drifted from debris of the old Wiard Plow factory in Batavia late this morning, streams of area residents drove by the Swan Street location to see for themselves the destruction from Saturday's massive fire.

What they saw was more than the rubble of bricks, charred beams and twisted metal. They also saw the remains of Batavia's once thriving industrial history.

Firefighters were on scene as late as 10:30 a.m. as investigators tried picking through the debris to find the factory floor, in hopes of confirming the fire's origin and possible cause.

Lt. James Steinbrenner said they did get to a portion of the floor, but not the area they want to investigate.  Steinbrenner said the location investigators would like to examine is under much heavier rubble.  He said it will take heavy equipment to remove and it's unclear yet who will pay for that work.

Arson is still suspected, but police detectives have yet to announce any findings.



More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Engine overheats, causes structure fire in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A structure fire in Elba on Saturday caused an estimated $100,000 damage after a diesel engine connected to a generator apparently overheated, setting off the blaze.

A shed at 5327 Watson Road was destroyed.

The fire damaged the motor, generator, wiring and controls.

Elba Fire and Deputy Jason Saile investigated the incident.

(initial report)

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:05 am

Old factory of one of Batavia's most historic businesses partially destroyed in fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Tom Mancuso, Wiard Plow


There was nothing Tom Mancuso could do but watch.

Mancuso, donning a New York Yankees ball cap, and wearing a gaunt, dour expression in the unseasonably cold night, stood for hours just watching as firefighters tried to beat back the hungry red and blue flames devouring his building, the old Wiard Plow factory that his firm acquired in the 1980s.

Through the battle, Mancuso rarely turned away. He just watched.

wiardfire20_mancuso1.jpg"You can always build another 100,000-square-foot building," Mancuso said at one point. "You can never replace a 100-year-old building."

An Alarm of Fire
Just before sunset Saturday, Genesee County Dispatch started to get calls of a fire at 33 Swan St. -- the same location where a smaller fire had been extinguished by the Batavia Fire Department earlier Saturday.

On a day when the dispatch center dealt with hundreds and hundreds of calls, the switch board lighting up just fit the pattern.

But this time, this was no "possible" structure fire. Witnesses -- and there were several -- reported seeing heavy smoke.

By the time the Batavia Fire Department was on scene, flames were already showing.

The call quickly went out for mutual-aid departments to respond -- from Le Roy, Stafford, Town of Batavia and several others.

By 8:15 p.m., big balls of flame were shooting from the back of the historic structure.

Among the witnesses to the initial smoke was a reader of The Batavian, who told us he saw two youths running from the building. He said that later those same two youngsters were being questioned by police.

A little after 11 p.m., The Batavian confirmed Batavia Police detectives Todd Crossett and Kevin Czora were at the police station talking with two juveniles. Their parents had also been called to the station.

Earlier in the day, the Batavia Fire Department responded to a report of smoke coming from the rear side of the same Wiard Plow building.

wiardfire16.jpgTwo youths reported the fire, saying they were walking in the area when they spotted the smoke. Lt. James Steinbrenner said Batavia Police questioned the youths who reported the fire and determined they were in fact just witnesses and not involved in the possible arson.

The fire, according to Steinbrenner, appeared deliberately set. There were papers spread around the floor of an abandoned office space that had been ignited. The arrangement of the paper suggested it was sometimes used as bedding.

An electrical cause could be ruled out because the building had no utilities service.

People could gain access to the space where the fire was found through a collapsed wall in an inner courtyard-like area. There was evidence that somebody had used a pallet to construct a makeshift ladder to gain easy access from the courtyard down into the office area.

Four burned birthday candles sat on a table in a room adjacent to the office were the earlier fire was discovered.

That fire was completely extinguished by BFD before it had a chance to spread beyond the office.

This evening's fire, according to Steinbrenner, may have started several yards to the south of the earlier fire, but within the same group of rooms in the building.

Fire Protection
Mancuso was clearly concerned about access to his building. He said work crews just within the past couple of weeks had welded shut doors that vandals had been using to gain access by breaking locks. There was also a 10-foot-high chain-link fence that was supposed to prevent people from entering the courtyard area.

"It was secured from the casual person entering," Mancuso said.

Several fire companies from Genesee County responded to the blaze, including Le Roy, which over the previous six or seven hours had responded to 15 calls in its own district -- mostly trees and power lines down.

Batavia's interim fire chief, Craig Williams, said the first order of business was firefighter safety.

"It’s a vacant building, so our first priority is making sure our guys stay safe, so we weren’t going to enter the building," Williams said.

Firefighters formed a perimeter around the building, striking it with several streams of water -- including three aerial (or ladder) trucks.

One Batavia firefighter said Le Roy's ladder truck crew deserved special credit for attacking the fire from the front of the building and keeping the flames from spreading beyond the firewall.

“There were breeches in the firewall, because of construction and renovations over the years, but we dumped a lot of water on it," Williams said. "Between the firewall and our efforts it looks like we pretty much got it stopped at the firewall.”

All evening, temperatures were at or below freezing, and snow flurries occasionally blew through the scene.

Firefighters were universally thankful for the cold and damp weather. With the high winds of Saturday evening, the fire could have quickly and easily spread if not for the recent rains. The entire Harvester complex could have been lost. Winds of 30 to 40 mph were carrying embers directly over the old factory buildings.

Town of Batavia Fire was assigned early in the incident, Williams said, to watch over the Harvester buildings.

Shortly before 11 p.m., heavy-duty wrecking equipment was brought in to start knocking down bricks and mortar that were first set in the 1870s.

By knocking down the ancient walls, the remains of the fire could be more quickly extinguished.

By about 1 a.m., Sunday, most of the fire units who had responded were back in service.

Updated at 11:30 a.m., Sunday, to include information about weather conditions and potential damage to the Harvester complex.


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