WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Steady smoke seemed to never end and could be seen for miles. It wafted through Willimantic and overwhelmed the town for hours.
“We saw the flames yesterday from right across the street,” said owner of Blondie’s Diner Julie Begin. She knows the owners of the Willimantic Paper Waste Company that went up in flames around 10 yesterday morning.
Begin said, “The brothers come in here often, very nice family. So it was a huge tragedy for them.”
This massive fire put crews to the test. Officials say 14 area fire departments sent 200 people to the scene. They finally got it under control early this morning.
“It just means that we don’t expect it to grow any larger and we feel like we have it contained,” said Wilimantic Fire Chief mark Scrivener.
Crews rotated shifts, working through the night and well into the morning . If you look at that smoke, it’s still pouring out of this facility and that’s why environmental experts are still testing the air.
“We still consider the smoke to be a nuisance there’s no chemicals in the smoke and no risk to the public unless you have a pre-existing respiratory condition,” said Chief Scrivener.
A firefighter and worker suffered minor injuries. Students did not have school today, but crews will report for duty until every last hot spot is out. That’s why one diner owner decided to treat them to breakfast.
“We’re here to do anything we can to help them. I’ve been in contact with the Chief of Police and the fire marshal so they know that we’re here if there’s anything we can do. Send them down more food. lunch, coffee anything,” said Begin.
It’s still unclear what started the fire and the State Fire Marshal will try to figure that out over the next few days.
Chief Scrivener says trash will still be collected by the company that serves 45 towns in Eastern Connecticut and this will not spur any layoffs.