Upstate New York firefighter’s death in blaze prompts bail reform law change

The death of an upstate volunteer firefighter who collapsed battling a blaze believed to have been started by a serial arsonist sparks calls to change the state’s bail reform law State.

William “Billy” Steinberg, 37, responded to a fire at an empty vacation home in Sullivan County on Jan. 15 and collapsed, according to local reports.

Steinberg, deputy chief of the Forestburgh Fire Company, died of an apparent heart attack, according to the US Fire Administration.

The fire is believed to have been started by Mohammed Islam, 32, who is accused of breaking into the house and using paper and wood to start the fire which incinerated the house, according to a criminal complaint.

He was charged with second-degree burglary and fourth-degree arson, two crimes, records show.

William “Billy” Steinberg died of a heart attack while responding to a fire at an empty vacation home.

Islam had been charged on January 14 with arson and burglary for two previous fires – January 10 and January 13, according to criminal complaints.

Islam was released a day before the fatal fire due to state bail reform legislation, said Sen. Mike Martucci, a Hudson Valley Republican.

Martucci told a news conference on Saturday that he was introducing “Billy’s Law” to allow bail and remand for all arson charges.

“Our state leaders should no longer need proof that bail reform is a failed policy. Before another innocent life is lost, action must be taken,” Martucci said. “Billy’s Law is a practical step with broad bipartisan consensus to address the dangerousness of repeat offenders and protect our volunteer firefighters.”

Firefighters salute at William's funeral
Firefighters salute at Steinberg’s funeral.
Times Herald-Record

Steinberg’s father, Jim, said that while “the system has failed our community, my family and Billy,”

“At this time, my family and I implore the New York State Senate and Assembly to amend bail reform to protect our firefighters and the citizens of New York, so they never have to endure this type of tragedy themselves,” Steinberg said.

MP Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Forestburgh, said she would introduce legislation ‘to make sure this doesn’t happen again’.

Islam is being held in the Sullivan County Jail on $100,000 bond.

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