Forged On Fire? Amateur Bladesmith sparks massive blaze in upstate New York

amateur bladesmith sparks massive blaze

This story sets the record for the number of reader tips. Hands down. David Andersen, Doug Ritter, and almost a dozen other people all sent me links to this ironic but unfortunate story from the town of Cohoes, NY (outside Albany). A man who is being described as an “amateur bladesmith” had his fire get away from him. It took off in the face of 30 mile an hour winds, with the resulting conflagration torching the better part of 3 city blocks. 12 buildings suffered heavy to total damage in the blaze.

From CBS News:

Morse said John Gomes, of Cohoes, apparently was trying to bend metal in an attempt to imitate the History Channel television series “Forged in Fire”  when he started a barrel fire in his backyard that quickly spread. The TV series is about bladesmiths competing to create “history’s most iconic edged weapons.”

Gomes, 51, was charged with felony reckless endangerment and misdemeanor arson. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday night and was jailed on $15,000 bail, the newspaper reported. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday.

Assistant police Chief Tom Ross called the fire unintentional, or “reckless arson.”

“We often tell people we don’t allow open burns in the city and they often say, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?'” Morse said. “Well, this open burn just caused millions of dollars of damage and destroyed half our downtown.”

The blaze was brought under control about three hours after it began, but an hour later it started back up again. In the end, Morse said, three city blocks had been engulfed in smoke and flames.

Not that some pretty incredible blacksmithing can’t be done with a makeshift forge, plenty of great smiths started that way. However, a “barrel fire” is not going to get hot enough to forge steel without extensive modification. You need a blower of some sort, the barrel needs to be lined with firebricks and refractory cement. It takes some research to do properly, and responsibly.

Gomes sounds like a moron who started a fire in his backyard on a windy day, which got out of control and burned 3 city blocks. If he had done so burning leaves, it would have been a local news story. However, with the tenuous connection to the highest rated knife-themed show in TV history,the story has gone international with the BBC and others picking it up.

I wonder if this will affect the ratings one way or another.



Somewhat Related (It certainly justifies a Maine city’s decision to shut down a different backyard smith) :


  1. cmeat says:

    “…and seemingly burn down New York City. (‘Fire! The Biblical Cleanser!’)…”

    from “milk and cheese”, evan dorkin.

  2. Mike L. says:

    This being New York State I am sure one of the numbnuts in the State legislature will take advantage and propose a bill requiring registration, licenseing, education and unannounced inspections of bladesmiths.

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Forged On Fire? Amateur Bladesmith sparks massive blaze in upstate New York

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