A fire raged across three blocks in a city near Albany on Thursday after a man tried to forge a piece of metal over a fire in a barrel near his home, officials said.
The fire destroyed three residential buildings and damaged 28 others in the city of Cohoes, displacing as many as 28 people, Shawn Morse, the mayor, said in an interview on Saturday. No serious injuries were reported.
John Gomes, 51, the resident who is accused of starting the blaze near his home, was apparently inspired by “Forged in Fire,” a television series on History (formerly known as The History Channel) in which bladesmiths compete to create swords and other edged weapons.
“He was trying to bend metal and make a hammer or something,” Mr. Morse told reporters on Thursday. But the winds were not in Mr. Gomes’s favor.
Gusts in Cohoes reached up to 30 miles per hour and sparks quickly made their way to apartment buildings near the barrel fire. Mr. Gomes’s apartment was among those destroyed.
He was charged with felony counts of arson and reckless endangerment. He was arrested on Thursday and posted bail of $15,000 on Friday. He could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
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“He’s a father of two,” Christopher Ritchey, an Albany County public defender who is representing Mr. Gomes, said in an interview on Saturday. “He’s a hard-working plumber. And this is just a terrible, unfortunate accident, but it’s not a crime.”
Tom Ross, the assistant police chief in Cohoes, told reporters on Thursday that the arson charge was for “unintentional” or “reckless” arson. He said Mr. Gomes had been interviewed by detectives and made “statements that implicated himself.”
The cost to repair the damage is still being assessed, Mr. Morse said, estimating that it could be a few million dollars.
Cohoes, a city of about 20,000 people about nine miles north of Albany, had attracted commitments to invest in the revitalization of its downtown, Mr. Morse said, adding that the project would continue.
The city, a former mill town, has seen several catastrophic fires. One blaze in 1988, on Remsen Street, the same street as the fire on Thursday, destroyed nine buildings. In 1863, The New York Times reported that several women were killed in the city when a mill they were working in burst into flames.
The fire on Thursday spanned three blocks, making it the largest that Mr. Morse, a former firefighter, could remember.
“We often tell people we don’t allow open burns in the city, and they often say, ‘Well, what’s the worst thing that can happen?’” he said. “Well, this open burn just cost millions of dollars in damage and has destroyed half of our downtown that we’ve worked so hard to rebuild.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of buildings damaged. It was 28, not 31.