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Victim identified in fatal fire in Hampton
Richard 'Dick' Murray Sr., 73, died; wife hospitalized

HAMPTON — A Hampton man died late Wednesday and his wife suffered burns when their home on South Road caught fire, fueled by oxygen bottles that were inside, officials said.

The man who was died was identified Thursday as Richard “Dick” Murray Sr., 73.

His wife, Joan Murray, 64, was taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont for burns and possible smoke inhalation. She was treated and had been released from the hospital as of Thursday afternoon. Sheriff’s Senior Investigator Kristen Hardy said Murray suffered burns to her arms and back.

Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said the fire was believed to have started when a canister of oxygen caught fire.

Initial scanner reports listed one person as being trapped when the fire was reported at 8:03 p.m. at 448 South Road, south of the county Route 18 intersection.

Hampton Fire Chief Matthew Sears said Mrs. Murray called 911 to report the fire as an “oxygen tank on fire.”

Sears said he was the first on the scene, and found the home ablaze but he could not get in the front door. Two neighbors had also tried to get in but were unable to, and they reported to the chief that two people were believed to be inside.

As he went around back he found Mrs. Murray half out of the home through a back door on a deck, conscious but unable to move. He said Poultney, Vermont Fire Chief Aaron Kerber arrived and helped him get her off the deck.

“Just as we got her off the porch the other oxygen bottles in the house exploded. There were five explosions,” Sears said.

The force of the explosions blew flames out of the windows and caused the flames to quickly spread. Firefighters were able to knock the fire down and family members were able to remove guns and other valuables from parts of the home once the fire was out. Mr. Murray was later located inside the home and pronounced dead at the scene.

Sears said it was unclear what caused the oxygen tank to catch fire as investigators were awaiting an opportunity to interview Mrs. Murray But he said family members had indicated Mr. Murray had gotten a delivery of oxygen bottles Wednesday morning.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, county fire investigators and investigators from the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control were looking into the cause Thursday. They had cleared the scene as of early Thursday.

The single-story home was gutted by the fire, with heaviest damage in the rear of the building. Sears said he did not note any smoke detectors in the home, and said that homeowners should check fire alarms and smoke detectors particularly closely this time of year

South Road is a sparsely populated road just west of the Vermont state line.

Washington County property tax records show the home was owned by Richard Murray.

Relatives and neighbors came and went from the home during the morning.

Mr. Murray’s grandson, Chris Murray of Fair Haven, Vermont, was among them, saying his grandfather worked as a drywall contractor and had recently been renovating a home in Pittsford, Vermont.

“He was just a down-to-earth guy,” he said.

Sears said he knew Mr. Murray as well.

“He was a really nice guy. He would always wave when I drove by,” Sears said.

Mr. Murray had lived in the home for decades.

A neighbor was near tears as she stopped at the fire scene while driving by early Thursday.

“He was the nicest guy, just a good neighbor,” she said.

Firefighters from North Granville, Middle Granville, Granville, Whitehall and Poultney and Fair Haven in Vermont assisted Hampton firefighters at the scene. The fire was under control within 90 minutes.

“The first responders did a fantastic job in difficult conditions,” said Hampton Supervisor Dave O’Brien.

Oxygen is highly flammable, and those who use it are urged to keep tanks and equipment away from flames. Serious oxygen tank-fueled fires have occurred around the region over the years, most recently claiming a 77-year-old man’s life in Greenwich in 2014. Oxygen tanks were also believed to be a factor in a 2013 fatal fire in Warrensburg.

Area police, officials weigh options to keep guns out of schools

Following Wednesday’s Florida school shooting, Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said on Thursday that it’s time for school officials to consider having police officers in all area schools.

“In light of yesterday’s mass shooting at a Florida School, its imperative we have the discussion regarding trained law enforcement officers in our schools,” wrote Murphy in a letter to all Washington County School superintendents. “In the aftermath of cowardly events like this, we all increase active shooter training, response planning, and review building security. The truth is, we can plan all we want, but in most of these cases by the time law enforcement arrives, the event is over.”

The Florida killing of 17 at a Parkland, Florida high school on Wednesday — allegedly at the hands of a 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz armed with an AR-15 assault weapon — marks another in a string of mass shootings around the country.

An armed security guard never got the chance to stop the teen gunman during the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During a press conference, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed there was in fact an armed school resource officer on the school’s campus, although “he never encountered Cruz.”

“I was thinking about this last night and when these events happen, we train how to respond,” said Murphy in a Thursday afternoon interview. “I am trying to take a more proactive approach ... I remember when we had DARE officers in the schools. It had a positive impact. With officers in the schools, they are interacting with the children and they provide security and safety.”

Murphy continued: “Look at Florida, the student reportedly made comments (ahead). If that’s the case, it could have been followed up on. This kid had a rifle.”

On Thursday, Corinth Central School District Superintendent of Schools Mark R. Stratton sent a letter to families in the district, reiterating their commitment to student safety.

“The emergency drills we practice each year (four lockdown drills, eight fire/evacuation drills, and at least one emergency early release drill) reinforce our commitment to preparedness and safety,” Stratton wrote. “In the event of an emergency, families will be notified using Blackboard Connect, in much the same manner as if there were a snow day.”

In Parkland, much like the North Country, parents believed their children were safe and the community was just ranked the number one safest place to live a week earlier.

Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said most people think it won’t happen. “In reality, most active shooters are not in urban settings, but in places like here,” he said in a Wednesday interview.

Both Warren and Washington counties sheriffs’ offices offer active shooter training to the public.

“In the last five years, we have done them in every school in the county,” Lamouree said. “We teach people what happens and give them tools to respond.”

According to Lamouree, prior to the training, officers typically conduct a security assessment of the facility and suggest changes for better protection. All services are a no cost, he added.

Additionally, Murphy said they have a rapid responder system in several schools that gives the officers immediate access to building plans and faculty names if there is a problem.

In addition to enhancing school safety, many point to tougher gun laws as a way to quell the tide of violence.

“As long as Elise Stefanik, her boss Paul Ryan and many others in Congress are funded by the National Rifle Association, we will not have any necessary and meaningful federal legislation that works to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” said Pat Tuz of New Yorkers’ Against Gun Violence, Saratoga Springs. “We’ve had how many school shootings this year, but, how many of them have been in NY? That’s because New York with the SAFE ACT has a ban on assault weapons, limited capacity magazines, a good pistol permit law and background checks.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan ranked No. 64 out of 532 in the 2016 campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association with $61,401; U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, ranked 225 with $7,179.

In that same campaign contribution cycle, 14 Democratic representatives from New York took no funding from the NRA, along with one New York Republican, Dan Donovan, NY-11.

In 2018, Ryan ranks No. 1, with campaign contributions from pro-gun groups at $29,887; and Stefanik at No. 156 out of 532, with $1,000 from pro-gun groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics data.

On Wednesday, Stefanik wrote on Facebook, “Please join me in praying for the victims and families that were impacted by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida today. Thank you to the brave first responders and law enforcement for your heroic efforts to save lives.”

Hundreds of people from several states responded in written comments to Stefanik’s Facebook page regarding the Florida shooting and gun legislation.

Michael La Croix, a NY-21 constituent, living in Southern Washington County posted a comment regarding the congresswoman’s call for prayers. “NO, JUST NO. You don’t get to call for meaningless thoughts and prayers...AGAIN! You and your ilk have clearly put money and career over lives and have proven time and time again you could care less about the best interest of the people even children. You didn’t pull the trigger, but you all have the blood of children on your hands.”

When asked about the high number of Facebook comments regarding the shooting on her page, Stefanik, through her spokesman Tom Flanagin, responded by email: “The news of this devastating shooting is heartbreaking and the thoughts and prayers of our nation are with the families impacted in Parkland, Florida. In the coming days, we will learn more about how this happened and hopefully how we can work to prevent something like this from happening again. Right now, we pray for those who lost their lives and those who were hurt by this tragedy, and we thank the first responders and law enforcement officers who worked heroically to save lives.”

Later on Thursday, La Croix said in a phone interview, the shootings keep happening. “Its happening to children,” he said.

“This whole thing with every issue always comes down to money, the whole government is corrupted by money and they leave us with so little to say,” La Croix said. “I know Elise voted for guns to come across state lines … thoughts and prayers? We have a problem in our country.”

SUNY Adirondack adds space for business

QUEENSBURY — Kate Baker, director of SUNY Adirondack’s new Business Central, wants the community college to be the first point of contact for people looking to start or expand a business.

“We’re trying to be that front door to the community,” she said.

Business Central, which is located in the college’s new addition to the north end of Adirondack Hall, is described as a one-stop shop for students looking for internships and jobs. It will also hold entrepreneurship classes, offer workshops, host events and provide noncredit offerings such as the Microenterprise Assistance Programs and house the Start-Up NY program.

Baker said the small group space can house seminars or collaborative partnerships. An office will offer space to operate for business people who have partnerships with the college but are based outside Warren and Washington counties.

Business Central is one component of the new one-story 13,250-square-foot building addition, which opened in January. The addition also contains a large conference room, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Continuing Education, which offers noncredit courses and workforce training.

Baker has been on the job for about a month. Before coming to SUNY Adirondack, she worked for 12 years at the University at Albany’s Small Business Development Center. She said she was attracted to the new position because of the close partnerships that the college will be forming with businesses.

Baker said the goal is to identify gaps in workforce needs.

The college plans to host two “Boots to Business” programs from the Small Business Administration in the spring and fall. These are designed to help veterans set up a business.

“Warren and Washington County have some of the highest veterans’ populations, so we want to make sure we’re serving them,” she said.

The college also plans to partner with communities in Warren and Washington counties on agribusiness initiatives.

Another initiative is a “digital toolbox,” which will help provide job-seekers with information on looking for jobs, finding work and training in soft skills.

The college hopes to have a business plan competition for both students and community members in Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties.

“We want to build an entrepreneurial culture,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of opportunities up here and a lot going on in the community. We want to be able to foster that.”

The 4,100-square-foot Northwest Bay Conference Center can be subdivided into four rooms. A catering kitchen allows for a place to keep food warm. Community organizations will be able to rent the room, Baker said.

“We’re in the process of hiring an events coordinator,” she said.

When complete, the room will be able to host over 300 people, according to Baker.

The building opened on time in January with some small details left to finish, according to college spokesman Doug Gruse.

The architecture features a mix of glass, with some wooden accent paneling and splashes of green and blue. Green is one of the college’s colors.

Gruse said the architects were trying to reflect a mix of old and new in the design.

“They definitely want the building to have a modern feel, but also reflect the region,” he said.

This was the second phase of the additions and renovation to what was referred to as the science building — now renamed Adirondack Hall.

In the fall, the college opened its $17 million, two-story addition on the south side of Adirondack Hall, which houses, nursing, science, technology, engineering and math programs.

The final phase of the renovation will turn the former science space into offices, computer classrooms, practice labs, nursing simulation labs and tutoring spaces. Gruse said that work should be completed by spring.

In addition, improvements have been finished at Warren Hall for the start of the spring semester. The college wanted to house all student services in one location, including admissions, financial aid, student success, Educational Opportunity Program, bursar, registrar and the deans of enrollment management and marketing and student affairs.

Drug rehab center proposed for Queensbury

QUEENSBURY — An inpatient rehab facility for drug addicts has been proposed for a commercial district.

It would be located at 79 Glenwood Ave., next to Town Court. Up to 14 women would live there during treatment, which generally lasts two months.

“I think it’s a perfect facility because it’s a mixed-use area,” said Supervisor John Strough.

The facility would be run by Addictions Care Center, which has won a bid to provide rehab facilities in Warren and Washington counties. Now the company is looking for locations, and has proposed buying 79 Glenwood Ave.

The Glenwood site would be for women only. The company is looking for another location to house up to 21 men.

In an informational meeting with the Town Board, Executive Director Keith Stack said the center would be staffed at all times. At night, there would be two people on duty — a credentialed addiction counselor and a case manager. During the day, there would also be a registered nurse, two LPNs, a medical director, a psychiatrist, a family counselor and two credentialed addiction counselors, he said.

The center would have about 12 full-time jobs and 12 part-time jobs.

Strough was enthusiastic about the idea.

“I think you’re addressing a crisis,” he said. “I think we all have members of our family, near or far, who’ve gotten stuck with this. And it’s an awful, awful addiction.”

The center would almost exclusively care for Warren and Washington county residents. While it is not required to do so, the need is so great that the beds would likely be filled by locals, Stack said.

In Albany County, where the company runs rehab facilities, 90 percent of the patients are from Albany County and the rest are from the greater Capital Region. In Rensselaer County, its facility is nearly 100 percent Rennselaer County residents, he said.

At those facilities, 67 percent or more of the patients are addicted to opioids, he added.

“This program would serve this area. It’s intended to serve the community,” he said. “There’s a real need for the services. The fact is, people are the most successful if they can receive care and start their recovery in their home community.”

When patients near the end of their inpatient rehab treatment, counselors plan out their release, he added. They find permanent, safe housing for each patient before release.

Many go back to their families, he said, but some do not have that option.

“A lot of it is finding safe, sober housing,” he said.

The center includes family members in the patient’s treatment. They attend family counseling sessions throughout treatment, he said.

Most patients are referred through Drug Court, doctors or an ER, he said. Patients can refer themselves as well.

Strough thanked Stack for being willing to start a program here.

“I want to thank you for bringing it to the area,” he said. “I think you’ve picked a good location.”