Blaze near apartment complex could have been tragic, charges pending

Posted July 3, 2012 at 1:58 pm

A fire just inside the city limits of Albany about mid-afternoon Saturday, June 30 caused havoc and the potential to have been a disastrous situation had it not been for a very quick response time from several local emergency responders.

Local 911 Dispatch received a report of a fire between Lowhorn’s Trailer Park and Clinton Terrace Apartments on Hwy. 553 (Wisdom Dock Road), what is known as “town hill”, around 3:30 p.m. Saturday and the fire was quickly spreading up the hillside behind the apartment complex.

Albany Police Department, Albany Fire Department, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, Clinton County Emergency Services personnel were quickly on the scene and immediately began an evacuation of several residents in the area.

Residents from the apartments and homes along the southern side of Hwy. 553 as well as some of the residents from the trailer park that were closest to the fire were evacuated by emergency personnel while fireman battled the blaze, keeping it at bay from residences or other structures in the vicinity.

According to Albany Fire Chief Robert Roeper, the fire originated due to fireworks being shot off from a home at the back side of the trailer park. The sparks apparently caught the dry grass and debris on fire and with the heat and humidity, the blaze began to spread quickly.

“The hillside behind the trailer park ignited, the fire escalated up the hill in the direction of the apartment building,” Roeper said. He added the fire endangered not only the apartment building and mobile homes closest to the fire, but about three other homes that sit between the mobile home park and roadway.

Law enforcement and others helped cordon off the main vicinity of the blaze while firefighters battled the fire to keep it from reaching any buildings.

Roeper said that several people were evacuated during the fire, with several being housed at the Clinton County Courthouse, which Judge/Executive Lyle Huff opened for the evacuees after learning of the situation. Roeper also said officials from the Red Cross were at the facility to assist the residents who had to be evacuated from their homes.

Firemen were on the scene to put out the fire for about four hours before residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The fire chief said some flames from the fire went as high as 40 feet into the air and noted the quick response time of all officials involved “kept the situation from becoming a disaster.”

Roeper thanked the judge/executive for allowing the nearby courthouse to be opened for those who had to be evacuated and also expressed appreciation to several individuals who had heard about the incident and volunteered to bring water, Gatorade and other liquids to firemen while they were fighting the blaze in over 100 degree heat.

The fire chief again commended Judge Huff or having the foresight to call for an outdoor burn ban, including fireworks, last Thursday, June 28, noting that now Governor Steve Beshear has issued a similar ban for the entire state due to the current weather conditions.

Since fireworks have apparently been determined to have caused the extremely dangerous fire this past weekend, Roeper noted that the setting off of fireworks during the ban “would be taken seriously” by the fire department and law enforcement.

“It (setting off fireworks in these conditions) is serious and will be treated as such,” the fire chief said. He noted, that people who do, could be charged with a serious offense such as wanton endangerment, possibly multiple counts, that may involve the hazards to firefighters or other citizens.

Fortunately, no injuries resulted from the incident Saturday afternoon, but Roeper did say some people did suffer somewhat from high outdoor heat.

Roeper also said this weekend that a few ongoing woodland fires in different parts of the county, some near the Wayne County line, were still burning. After the local fire department is called to those type fires to help control the burns, the Forestry Service begins working to contain and eventually put out those fires.

Charges have been filed in relation to those who allegedly shot off the fireworks that ignited the weekend fire and Albany Police Chief Ernest Guffey issued the following press release pertaining to the incident and charges:

On Saturday, June 30, at 3:26 p.m., Chief Ernest Guffey and Officer Jim Guffey, of the Albany Police Department, Sheriff Rick Riddle, and the Albany Fire Department, responded to a large fire located on a hillside between Lowhorn’s Trailer Park and Clinton Terrace. Due to the extreme conditions and the direction of travel by the fire, it resulted in the occupants of Clinton Terrace being evacuated and part of KY Hwy. 553 being shut down from the intersection of Cross Street and KY Hwy. 553, to the Fairgrounds Road.

Investigation revealed that Charles R. Crabtree, 152 Homer Lane, Lot #5, had been setting off fireworks at his son’s residence, also located in the park, caused the fire.

Crabtree was detained by Officer Guffey and transported to Albany Police Department for questioning. As a result of the interview, Crabtree was charged with two counts of Failing to Comply with the Kentucky Sex Offender Registration, Menacing, Disorderly Conduct-2nd degree, Criminal Mischief-1st degree, and Violation of the Local Burn Ban, which was put into effect county wide on 28 June, 2012.

Other personnel assisting in the evacuation of Clinton Terrace and the containment of the fire were Assistant Chief Lyle Pierce and Sgt. Mark Bell of the Albany Police Department, Deputy Steve Martin, Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, Albany Fire Department, and numerous first responders from the Clinton County Ambulance Service. The investigation continues by the Albany Police Department.


Wesley Johnson, whose home is near the area where a grass fire was burning Saturday, used a water hose to wet down the roof of his house while the blaze was being battled by members of the Albany Fire Department.


The Albany Fire Department set up in the parking lot of some evacuated apartments Saturday afternoon after a bottlerocket caught the field below it on fire. The fire department quickly got the fire under control before it could reach the apartment building. Below, Sheriff Rick Riddle questioned a suspect after the fire was under control. the hill side in the left of the photo was what had caught fire below the apartment buildings.