Violations at Burned-Out Factory

Investigators have not yet determined what caused Monday's early morning fire in Torrington, but they found something that sure didn't help -- the building's sprinkler system had been shut off because it was leaking. 

The four-alarm fire destroyed the old Smurfit Stone Container Co. and a moving company that was renting space inside the building, as reported Monday morning. 

"The owner was told in February he needed a new sprinkler system," said Deputy Fire Marshal Joseph Fioretti, "and he didn’t do anything. At the very least he should have told us."

This isn't the first time that Eric Chadwick, the building's owner, has been cited for fire code violations. He was cited last year for having the sprinklers shut off, among other violations, Waterbury’s Republican American reported. 

"The sprinkler system wasn't working, and that was probably the biggest issue," Fioretti told the paper.

The fire started in the middle building of a five-building complex, at Daly Moving and Storage, officials said. The owner of the moving company was on vacation when her business was destroyed.

The building was unoccupied but emergency crews had to cut power to the surrounding neighborhood as a precaution, leaving more than 500 people in Torrington without power on the first day since April where temperatures are expected to reach 90-degrees. Residents were being allowed back into their homes just before 8:30 a.m. 

Pauline Cunningham was driving by the scene Monday morning and said she had never seen anything like it.  From the video she submitted, it appears that the entire top floor is engulfed. Crews at the scene said flames were visible from five miles away. 

Smurfit-Stone has other facilities in Connecticut and recently announced that it would close the Portland plant in September. Ninety-three people work there.  

Chadwick, a former Torrington mayor, only had liability insurance on the building, according to Fioretti.
Mountaintop Trucking is preparing for demolition of the building. Environmental cleanup permits will take a couple of weeks to line up and warnings of asbestos have already been posted.

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