The saying goes, neither snow nor rain will stop the mail, but fire sure will. Hundreds of North Haven customers lost their mail on Wednesday after the mail truck that was carrying it burst into flames.
A North Haven mail carrier had just completed his first delivery of the day, at the Washington Avenue Mobile Mart. When he returned to his truck, which was parked next to a gas pump, he noticed smoke circling his ankles. He got out and alerted the clerk, who quickly shut the gas off to all of the pumps.
Surveillance video from the Mobile Mart shows the clerk rush outside with a fire extinguisher. However by that time, flames had engulfed the front of the mail truck.
“You had flames, maybe about 5 feet of flames coming from the truck itself,” said Rich Papa, who works across the street and witnessed the fire.
As United States Postal Service workers sifted through the burned up bills, flame-damaged fliers, and water-logged letters left on the ground, customers snapped photos of the burned out mail truck sitting beside them as they pumped gas.
“It’s shock. I’m like what? You don’t see that before. A mail truck. At a gas station of all places,” said Sam Erkert of New Haven.
“A lot of people aren’t going to be getting their mail. They’ll probably be pretty upset,” said Matt Hurlburt of Orange.
A spokesperson for USPS, Maureen Marion, said there were 440 deliveries sitting on the truck.
Not only was mail not delivered Wednesday, but it was also not picked up. Marion said most of the mail either burned up in the fire or was damaged by the water used to put out the flames. She said workers were going through the mail piece by piece to see if anything was salvageable with legible addresses.
Ralph Durante saw the fire and came back to check on the driver, who was not hurt. Durante said his business and the other five tenants in his office building down the road will be affected by the fire.
“This all my mail that I should be getting this afternoon that’s up in flames,” Durante said, pointing to the piles of debris on the ground.
Durante took the situation in stride.
“All my bills that are in there, I don’t have to pay them I think,” Durante joked.
A USPS spokesperson said customers will get a letter in the mail to retain for use with creditors.
Service is expected to resume Thursday, but anything salvaged from the fire could take up to three days to be delivered.