Crews continue to investigate fire at Willimantic waste facility - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Crews continue to investigate fire at Willimantic waste facility

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Smoke continued to billow from the scene of a fire at the Willimantic Waste Paper Company around noon on Monday. (WFSB) Smoke continued to billow from the scene of a fire at the Willimantic Waste Paper Company around noon on Monday. (WFSB)
Smoke continues to be the main concern on Monday in the wake of a fire at Willimantic Waste Paper Co. (WFSB) Smoke continues to be the main concern on Monday in the wake of a fire at Willimantic Waste Paper Co. (WFSB)
Town Manager Jim Rivers provided an update on the fire on Monday morning. (WFSB) Town Manager Jim Rivers provided an update on the fire on Monday morning. (WFSB)
This message was posted to the Willimantic Public Schools website, alerting parents and staff to the district's closure due to the fire. (windhamps.org) This message was posted to the Willimantic Public Schools website, alerting parents and staff to the district's closure due to the fire. (windhamps.org)
WILLIMANTIC, CT (WFSB) -

Smoke continued to linger across Willimantic on Monday, as fire crews remained at the scene of a waste facility fire that started Sunday morning.

The fire at Willimantic Waste Paper Company began around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Fire and town officials held a news conference with an update on Monday.

"We expect schools to open [Tuesday]," said Jim Rivers, town manager, Willimantic."We have a favorable shift in the wind."

Schools closed for the day on Monday.

West Main Street had been closed but reopened around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. 

"We have the situation under control, but we have a number of school closures because of the smoke," Rivers said. "That's probably our biggest challenge right now."

The smoke was said to just be a nuisance, except to people who have respiratory issues. There are no chemicals in it, according to Willimantic fire chief Marc Scrivener.

“There’s a lot of work left to be done here but we’re our goal is to have this large part of this wrapped up by this evening," Scrivener said on Monday.

A look at how bad the smoke was throughout the fire can be viewed here.

One firefighter had to be treated for exhaustion.

The fire department said it scaled back its operation overnight in order to keep crews rested.

It confirmed that it contained the fire earlier Monday morning.

The facility is 100,000 square feet.

Hundreds of firefighters from 14 departments were on the scene all day on Sunday and overnight.

Excavators were also brought in to help control the flames.

While the state fire marshal’s office entered the smoldering structure in search of a cause, New London firefighters were among the dozens of resources tasked with aiding the regional response, by decontaminating firefighters as they exited ground zero, hosing them down with a shower of soap and water.

“The first sender is the shower unit if the firefighter is coming off the scene standing under the shower unit getting all the contaminants off them being contained into the deacon pool,” said New London Fire Lt. Reginald Hansen.

A cause is still days away from being discovered, according to Scrivener.

The Devivo family, the company's owners, took to Facebook on Sunday night to show their appreciation for emergency responders.

Tonight we are grateful. First and foremost we want to thank the first responders who have come from far and wide to assist us today, and will continue to assist in the days to come, we will never have the right words to thank you, we are forever grateful.

To our employees and community at large thank you for your continued trust, we look forward to seeing and serving you tomorrow!

According to documents obtained by Channel 3, OSHA fined the Willimantic Waste Paper Company more than $8,000 for three serious violations for issues tied to the company's storage and handling of liquefied petroleum gases, powered industrial trucks, as well as other general requirements.

The documents appear to show Willimantic Waste Paper Company reached a settlement with OSHA by paying half of the initial fine amount. ?

Community impact

The incident has had a major impact on the community.

"There’s a lot of people affected by this," said Gus Loukas, Tony's Pizza, Willimantic. "They actually have hundreds of people on their payroll. So, we don’t know how it’s all going to work out. So, we feel bad for everybody involved."

Windham Public Schools, along with area businesses were forced to close because of the fire. 

A message was posted on the district's website.

Eastern Connecticut State University also closed to ventilate classrooms.

Businesses did reopen later in the morning on Monday. Schools are expected to follow suit, but on Tuesday morning.

Windham Hospital is operating as usual, despite the smell of smoke, officials said.

State environmental crews are monitoring the air and continue to tell people to stay out of the smoke as much as possible.

Residents are being urged to limit their water usage, including waiting to run things like the dishwasher or washing machine. Fire officials said it's because the water system in the area is being taxed from the firefighting efforts.

Refresh this page and watch Channel 3 for updates.

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