Large fire destroys six oil trucks, two garages at Guy's Oil in Niantic
East Lyme — Family-owned Guy's Oil Service Station survived a raging fire early Sunday morning that threatened to destroy the 80-year-old business, considered by many to be a Niantic institution.
Six oil trucks and two garages at the West Main Street business were destroyed by the fire, which saw flames reach as high as 50 feet. No one was injured, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Despite the damage, Guy's Oil plans to resume operations on Monday.
Owner Dick Gada said that with five other oil delivery trucks still intact and computer systems up and running, the business would still be able to deliver oil, repair and tow cars and offer its other services.
"We are down. But we are not out," added Gada's wife, Donna.
Though the fire was quickly contained to the eastern side of the property where it started, nearly 1,600 gallons of fuel inside the six destroyed oil trucks were burned off in the fire.
An unknown amount of diesel fuel and home heating oil from those trucks also spilled onto the property and onto West Main Street, said Fire Marshal Chris Taylor.
Called in around 12:30 a.m., the fire was contained and under control by 2 a.m., Taylor said.
“It was a lot of water and a lot of help from people,” Taylor said. “But no one was injured and that’s all that really matters.”
The company, which recently celebrated its 80th anniversary, serves thousands of area homes and businesses, said John Wilson, owner of SignCraft Signs in Niantic, who was on the scene Sunday and helped the Gada family remove computers from their office building during the fire overnight.
He was among a group of people from local businesses who showed up Sunday to help Gada and his family.
"It's one of those family businesses that has been a part of Niantic for the last 80 years," Wilson said. "Just look at everyone coming out to help. They are here on a Sunday morning willing to do whatever it takes to help this family out."
After inheriting the business from his parents, Gada said, he has recently taken a step back from running the company full time due to health issues. His son, Richard Jr., has taken over the day-to-day operations of the company.
"Everyone here has done an excellent job while I've been out," Gada said. "Just on Thursday we had an appreciation luncheon for all these boys and their hard work, and I know they will keep doing what they need to keep everything going."
Responding to the scene early Sunday morning were the Niantic and Flanders fire departments, as well as the East Lyme police. The Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Waterford and Old Mystic fire departments also assisted, while the Norwich and Pfizer fire departments brought in a foam trailer to help extinguish flames fueled by the oil.
Taylor said that while nearby residents heard explosions from the fire, the explosions were not from exploding fuel tanks but from furnace parts, specifically expansion tanks, stored in the garage.
Taylor and the state fire marshal were still investigating the cause of the fire Sunday, and Taylor said the fire may have started at the back of the garage. The Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Unit was also on scene overnight.
Most of the property, which includes several car-repair garages, parking lots and a small gas station, as well as several underground fuel tanks, was spared from the fire Taylor said, though an abutting office building was partially damaged.
On Sunday, cleaning and construction crews and volunteers from area businesses worked to clean spilled diesel from the ground and repair the damaged roof of the office building, while others helped put down sand to prevent oil from spilling onto other parts of the property.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was also on scene. Taylor said that while oil had seeped into the ground during the fire, the town’s drinking water, which is contained in pipes, would not be contaminated. He said there were no wells in the nearby vicinity and that DEEP was investigating potential impacts on a nearby marsh.
Oil booms, put in place overnight, also blocked oil from flowing into a nearby stormwater drain, he said.
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