Hundreds of firefighters responded to a massive fire that broke out at a Willimantic, Connecticut waste paper facility which soon erupted into a raging inferno. The fire is reported to be under control but hundreds of firefighters are still at the scene. Local schools and businesses remain closed.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Fire Is At a Waste Paper Facility in Willimantic, Connecticut, Full of Flammable Materials
The fire broke out at the Willimantic Waste Paper Co., Inc. on West Main Street in Willimantic, an older part of town. Thick plumes of smoke filled the air and the heat was so heavy that it could be picked up on local radar scans. The Fire Chief stated that the fire went to four alarms.
The DEEP has some concerns about the impact of the fire to the local area. DEEP officials are currently onsite monitoring air quality. According to NECN, anyone with pre-existing conditions or respiratory issues should stay inside. The impact of any runoff that may have streamed into the Willimantic River will be assessed at a later date.
Part of what emergency responders are doing now is transporting massive amounts of waste paper to other facilities, as the paper goods are obviously flammable and pose a serious hazard if the fire should reignite.
2. The Building Itself Is Believed to Be Old; it is Unknown if The Structure Was Sprinklered
The Willimantic Waste Paper Co. is a family owned and operated company. It has been in business for over 60 years and employs between 240 and 350 people, according to different sources, and collects waste and recyclable materials from multiple towns.
It is believed that the facility did undergo regular building and safety inspections. If it failed to meet any of the building inspector’s standards, the company would have been issued with a notice and a window of time to correct whatever measures failed to meet the set safety standards.
There are no citations or safety violations listed against the company by the Willimantic Building Inspector; indicating that the company was in compliance with all official codes and standards.
3. As of Monday Morning, Hundreds of Firefighters Are Still at The Scene
Firefighters from multiple districts are at the scene, along with police and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection crews, who have been there since yesterday, states NECN.
Fortunately, no one was inside the building when the fire erupted. Several rescue workers were hospitalized for lightheadedness and heat exhaustion.
Firefighters are still trying to keep the fire under control and make sure that the fire does not reignite. The structure, which appears to be unsafe, will likely be demolished in order to preserve public safety.
The police are at the scene gathering evidence as well as protecting the perimeter.
Representatives of the DEEP are monitoring air quality as well as the effects of any pollutants that may have seeped into the Willimantic River.
4. The Cause of The Fire Remains Unknown
The cause of the fire remains unknown. It is also unclear if cause and origin investigators have been brought to the scene yet. First, the safety of the structure must be established. If it is unsafe to enter the structure, investigators will have to take other approaches to determine what happened.
With the presence of so many flammable materials, the fire could undoubtedly have been started accidentally. Investigators will test for the presence of accelerants and perform other in-depth tests to determine if arson could have been involved.
If the fire is determined to have started accidentally, the owners of the company will be entitled to an insurance payout, assuming all of the conditions of the policy have been met, such as regular building inspections, working sprinkler systems and so forth. Engineers will work to determine if the sprinkler and alarm systems might have failed.
5. Many Local Schools & Businesses Are Closed
Local schools and businesses remain closed in order to err on the side of caution. Road safety is a concern, as well as the presence of smoke in the air, as NECN explains.
This includes Windham Public Schools as well as Eastern Connecticut State University.
Many roads near the facility remain closed. People with respiratory issues are urged to stay inside by DEEP officials for the time being, to avoid exposure to possible irritants in the air caused by the fire.