More than 100 units at a Waterbury storage facility burned through the afternoon and into the evening as smoke and steam emanated from a two-alarm fire visible from the highway Wednesday.
Crews managed to contain the fire to one of three buildings comprising the A-1 Self Store Facility at 990 Meriden Road. When they arrived shortly after noon, firefighters were confronted with heavy flames that kept them out of the burning building.
They opened as many doors as they could and began searching for hazards that would amplify the flames. At one point, ammunition went off and a propane cylinder exploded, according to Battalion Chief Bob Stoeckert.
"You never know what's stored in there, what kind of chemicals," said Stoeckert.
The fire was so intense they were left with no choice but to just let it burn, and said 115 units in the affected facility would not be saved.
No one was hurt, but customers are mourning the loss of their possessions.
"I had some furniture in there, but the things that have sentimental value – things that my son made through his life... cards, pictures, things that can't be replaced – that breaks my heart, because I'll never get that stuff back," said Waterbury resident Rose Harvey.
Diane Hagan said everything purchased for her 35-year-old daughter's wedding next month is gone.
"All her favors and all her centerpieces and things for the wedding have been destroyed," said Hagan. "It's heart wrenching. ... We have to start from scratch now and put our heads together and money together to try to help her."
Hagan said the facility does not offer insurance and her daughter is not independently insured.
Stoeckert said the department will remain on scene through the night. They brought in an excavator and razed the building around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
It's not clear what sparked the flames, and Stoeckert said the fire marshal can't begin to investigate until the embers stop smoldering.
Waterbury Fire Chief David Martin said investigators will be combing through surveillance footage in search of any suspicious activity that may have contributed to the blaze.