Crews began demolition on an old mill building in Enfield Wednesday night, hours after firefighters battled a fire at the former casket company on North River Street, and it has been torn down.
Officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the building had to come down because the structure had become unsafe. Demolition began around 10 p.m. Wednesday and was completed around 4 a.m. Thursday.
Firefighters responded to the unoccupied building at 33 North River Street around 6:43 a.m. Wednesday. One firefighter was taken to the hospital with a stress-related injury. He was treated and released.
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As flames ravaged the structure, power was out in the area.
Eversource officials said they were asked to turn power off to the area while firefighters worked to knock down the flames. There were 1,400 customers affected at the peak, but everyone was restored by 9 a.m.
The building is feet away from railroad tracks and local train service was disrupted. Passengers were shuttled by bus throughout the day. Amtrak said activity on that part of the route would ave to be shut down while demolition occurs.
“I started hearing the fire trucks, one right after another after another,” Liane Grady, of Enfield, said.
One neighbor said she thought a driver hit her house.
“I heard a boom and I thought somebody hit the house. I jumped out of bed and I looked out the window, because there were all lights, and I saw the whole thing in flames,” Caroline Cogtella, of Enfield, said.
Some of the building materials contain asbestos, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The agency conducted tests to monitor the air in the area.
DEEP said Thursday morning that personnel conducted dust and vapor monitoring for presence of construction demolition debris in the air and staff didn't detect any elevated levels.
Asbestos fiber monitoring was also conducted as a precaution, and those samples have been sent to a laboratory for testing and results might come back as early as tomorrow, according to DEEP.
Staff report that plenty of water was applied to debris during demolition, and the heavy air and rain last night also likely helped to mitigate the possible release of asbestos fibers into the air, according to DEEP.
Water used by firefighters to fight the fire ran off into the Connecticut River, according to the DEEP.
There is no oil sheen on the river and no sign of a fishkill, the agency said.
An asbestos contractor cleared debris from the road and train track last night and the town will work with the State Department of Public Health on proper disposal of fire debris. DEEP and EPA Region 1 are no longer at the scene.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, and fire officials said it may be difficult to determine because of the damage.
"You know they will try to investigate that. But if they end up tearing it down it’s going to be pretty hard to come up with the cause," Enfield Fire Department spokesperson Mark Zarcaro said.
Investigators believe that the fire started on the third floor.
“At this time we are confident that we know where the fire started and we are still focusing on what may have caused the fire which, again, we’re still going to be following up on leads and interviewing witnesses in order to determine, make that determination," Sgt. Paul Makuc with the Connecticut State Police Fire & Explosion Unit said.
Town officials said this was not the first time fire affected the property. According to the mayor, the building was initially constructed in 1890 but destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1893.
The town had hoped the sell the property to a developer for mixed use space including restaurants and retail.
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