Lightning may have caused Bevin Bell Factory fire - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lightning may have caused Bevin Bell Factory fire

Don Martin snapped this picture of the Bevin Bell Factory in East Hampton Don Martin snapped this picture of the Bevin Bell Factory in East Hampton

Dozens of workers are out of a job and a community is left without the industry that gave it the nickname Bell Town, USA.

East Hampton's Bevin Bell Factory went up in flames late Saturday night taking generations of work with it.

The family owners, the employees who lost their jobs and all of East Hampton are all trying to cope with this loss.

"I've seen fires, I've cleaned up after a lot of fires. I've been in the military, I've seen a lot of stuff, but you never want to see anything like this," said Matthew Bevin, current president.

For 180 years the Bevin Bell Factory was run by Bevin family.

Matt Bevin said that despite the devastation of the family business going up in flames, he is keeping the faith.

"We're trying to figure out if anything is usable," Bevin said.

All day Tuesday workers have been going to the site of the factory fire to salvage whatever they can from the weekend fire.

"The only thing that has the potential to be useable is the dyes. Dyes are the brain of the operation. You can rebuild the brain if you can salvage the dyes. Maybe we can resurrect the building," Bevin said.

Cause of Bevin Bell Factory fire undetermined

As the community comes to grips with the loss of such an important piece of history, East Hampton's fire marshal said it's likely a lightning strike started the massive fire.

The official cause of the fire has been ruled as undetermined, but investigators said that they believe the building was hit by lightning when powerful storms ripped through the area on Saturday afternoon and evening.

The fire roared for 19 hours, destroying the building and everything inside. While fire officials said they are leaning toward a lightning strike as the cause, they said explosions inside the building helped spread the fire.

They had to use 5 million gallons of water to get it out.

Stanley Bevin ran the factory for nearly 40 years before handing the reins over to his nephew. He said his thoughts are with the 26 employees who lost their jobs in this rubble.

"Many of those employees have been with us for so many, many, many years and what struck me about the whole afternoon was that our employees care as much as we do, maybe more," Stanley Bevin said.

Gerald Plummer is one of those workers, and stopped by to take one final look at where he made a living.

"It's just a sad, sad day. It meant a lot. It was a well known factory," he said.

The current president said he hopes to rebuild, but knows that might not be realistic in the current economy.

The fire, which ignited just before midnight Sunday, was described by emergency officials as "very active" upon arrival.

Thirty fire departments from surrounding towns responded to the scene to assist East Hampton emergency crews.

Officials said multiple propane tanks were present on the property and dozens of nearby residents were evacuated from their homes as a precaution.

Several witnesses reported hearing explosions, most likely caused by the propane tanks.

A temporary shelter was set up at the high school for the evacuated residents while emergency crews battled the fire, but a majority of them were allowed to return to their homes later in the morning Sunday.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.