New York Firefighters Fight General-Alarm Inferno

COHOES -- A stubborn fire that raged out of control for hours -- spewing smoke that could be seen for miles -- destroyed the landmark Golden Krust Bakery and Restaurant Tuesday night.

For more than four hours, firefighters battled explosive flames that shot out the back and the front of the Ontario Street building as hundreds gathered on the street, watching a favorite business turn to ashes.

The general-alarm blaze, called in after 4:51 p.m., was possibly touched off by a doughnut machine that caught fire in the back area where the baking is done, Cohoes Mayor John T. McDonald III said.

He was among the many who were saddened by the loss of the nearly 60-year-old family business, known as a gathering place for friendship and good food.

A member of the Jarosz family which has owned and operated the popular bakery and eatery at 180 Ontario St. for three generations, told McDonald she was working in the bakery and saw the fire start in the machine.

"The doughnut machine was in a small area, and it just got out of control," McDonald said he was told by a daughter, Danka.

Several customers and workers quickly got out of the building. No injuries were reported. A full investigation will be conducted by fire officials.

The Jarosz family was in shock, the mayor said, and unavailable for comment. "They invested and invested and invested to keep this business going," he said.

"It's one of the stable businesses in the city," Police Chief William Heslin said. "The food was great. The baked goods were great."

The fire caused thousands of Time Warner cable customers to lose service in Troy, East Greenbush, Halfmoon and surrounding areas due to a fiber break, said Peter Taubkin, spokesman for Time Warner.

"It was definitely as a result of the explosion and fire in Cohoes," Taubkin said.

Dozens of firefighters from four departments tackled the blaze from the front and the rear of the building, pouring water on the high-flying flames and swirling smoke.

Cohoes firefighters, joined by Troy, Watervliet and Green Island companies, used ladder trucks and aimed hoses from buckets to get water on the fire.

The fire quickly engulfed the back area of the building, where it started. After about two hours, it worked its way to the front, busting out the store-front windows of the bakery shop and the adjoining restaurant and shooting flames toward the street, scorching the familiar Golden Krust letters at the top.

Families on Ontario Street vacated their homes and joined hundreds of spectators lining both sides of the Ontario Street Bridge, affectionately known as the Golden Krust Bridge, to watch. The bakery is just over the bridge, a couple of blocks below Interstate 787 and located on tiny Simmons Island, one of two islands in Cohoes.

The fire spread to storage sheds behind the bakery, quickly destroying them, fire officials said.

Power was cut to more than 1,000 residences in the Ontario Street neighborhood at the request of fire officials, National Grid spokesman Chris Finkle said.

As darkness settled in, the only light came from the flames and the dozens of firetrucks and rescue vehicles lining the streets and parking lots.

"It was a landmark for more than 60 years, not only for the Cohoes community but it served bakeries throughout the region," McDonald said.

At one time Golden Krust shops stretched as far north as Lake George and throughout the Capital Region, he said.

"But more importantly, they are an integral part of the community," the mayor said.

His 7-year-old daughter, Emma Rose, called and asked what was on fire and when he told her the Golden Krust, she burst into tears, McDonald said.

He and his wife, Renee, and their three children ate breakfast regularly at the restaurant.

Emma Rose "called it Crusty," he said. "She loved to come here. It is breaking my heart."

Watching the fire was Yvonne Golas, who has worked there selling baked goods for 17 years and was still dressed in her white uniform.

She said she was standing at the counter, "and a boy came up from the back and said to call the fire department," the 67-year-old Cohoes native said.

There were several people eating, it was senior citizens' night, but they quickly got out, she said. The restaurant was also known for its Polish meals on Thursday nights.

Many at the scene said they were saddened to see an institution go down.

"It's the only bakery in Cohoes," said Dawn Weber, 38, who would treat herself and her kids with the cake with white frosting and an oreo topping.

The bakery and restaurant had some 20 to 30 employees, the mayor said, many were seniors or kids who worked part time. The restaurant could serve up to 40 diners.

"It's been there forever," said 49-year-old Cohoes resident Ruth Yule. She ate breakfast there a couple of times a week. "It's going to be missed."

"The prices were reasonable and the people friendly," said Robert Hudson, another Cohoes resident.

National Grid got a call at 5:27 p.m. about the fire and shortly after a crew arrived at 5:46 p.m. the power was shut off to 1,117 customers, Finkle said. Gas service was cut to the bakery.

More than 1,000 customers had power restored shortly after 7:30 when crews rerouted some of the circuits, Finkle said. There were still 81 customers without power in the area around the bakery, and they were waiting for an all-clear from the fire department, he said.