Officials have some environmental concerns after a massive five-alarm fire at a Bridgeport, Connecticut, factory that forced hundreds of neighbors to evacuate Thursday night and they are asking people to avoid fishing in the area as a precaution until they can determine how safe the water is.
The fire started around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at 2102 Seaview Ave., a factory that houses the Rowayton Trading Company, which was storing around 1,000 50-gallon drums of products including recycled industrial perfume products; and L.A. Barnaby and Sons, officials said on Friday morning.
Red foam was in the water, so the Coast Guard flew a helicopter over at the harbor and the shoreline this morning and noticed "heavy product" in the Yellow Mill Channel as well as some at the head of the Pequonnock River, Commander Jonathan Theel, of the Coast Guard, said.
The Coast Guard will also be checking Pleasure Beach.
Fire Chief Brian Rooney said there were several "tremendous" explosions during the fire, which was so intense that United Illuminating had to cut power to around 1,400 homes in the area.
"The fire continued to rage throughout the evening and had tremendous explosions. It seemed every five minutes we were getting plumes coming into the air. Huge heatwaves were coming toward the firefighters who held their ground," Rooney said.
As crews battled the factory blaze, roofs of around nine neighboring houses were on fire, so firefighters had that to contend with as well.
Deputy Fire Chief Dominick Carfi said it a miracle no one lost a home, he said.
Now, efforts are focuised on the environmental impact.
Officials from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said samples of the Yellow Mill River and the harbor show minute levels of material from the warehouse where the drums were stored.
Air quality tests indicate there is no immediate public health threat to the community, officials said, and the drinking water is safe.
Carfi mentioned that a private company provides the water supply and there is no well water in the area.
More samples and air quality tests will be done today.
One issued first responders faced was that Material Safety Data Sheets, which identify chemicals in the building, were not available. They were inside the burning building and the fire was raging too intensely to send crews in to get it.
Because of that, the Fairfield County hazmat team was called in and local officials reached out to the Coast Guard and EPA, because of concerns about the Yellow Mill River.
Bridgeport Public Safety spokesman Bill Kaempffer described the fire as a "major industrial blaze," which burned throughout the night. He said there were fireballs into the sky.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, but no one was seriously hurt, officials said. One injured an ankle and the other was taken to the hospital to be treated for heat exhaustion. The Red Cross provided first responders with food and water.
Around 400 residents who live in the area were evacuated to St. Ambrose Church on Boston Avenue, according to Red Cross spokesman Paul Shipman. As of Friday morning, the Red Cross continued to help 13 people affected by the fire.
Authorities are investigating to determine the cause of the blaze, but have not been allowed inside because of building collapses.
Until tests come back showing that it will be safe to fish, no shellfishing is allowed from Fairfield to the Housatonic River and there will also be no fishing in the harbor.
Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com