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Fire crews battling blaze at unpermitted Ledyard recycling facility

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Ledyard — A stubborn smoldering paper fire at an unpermitted recycling building was keeping firefighters busy well into the night on Thursday.

The fire at a four-bay metal structure owned by M J Sauchuk Inc. at 20 Lorenz Industrial Parkway was first reported at 10:36 a.m. Firefighters arrived to find a fire inside and smoke billowing from the mountains of paper and cardboard stored there.

Along with dousing the entire area with water, firefighters enlisted an employee of the company with a payloader to methodically haul out piles of material to expose hot spots.

Ledyard Fire Chief Jonathan Mann said extinguishing the fire completely was being complicated by the density of the paper, some of which was compacted and strapped in bundles. Smoldering portions of the pile were continually being uncovered by the payloader and in turn needed to be hosed down.

“It’s still actively burning. In order to get to it, we have to move this stuff,” Mann said.

No injuries were reported as of 9 p.m. The cause of the fire was under investigation by the town’s fire marshal, James Mann.

A representative from M J Sauchuk, a Mystic-based garbage collection service, was not immediately available to comment on how many people work at the facility or who was there at the time the fire started.

The building that houses the business lacks a building permit, and the town Zoning Officer Joseph Larkin issued a cease-and-desist order to M J Sauchuk in November of 2015 that is still in effect. The company applied for the permit for a metal building for truck maintenance in 2007, but received approval only for the foundation, which was built.

In 2014, M J Sauchuk received a permit for limited recycling by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, but DEEP later issued an order requiring the company to conduct its recycling indoors.

At some point in 2015, the company went ahead with construction of the metal building without permits. The metal building also has an unfinished wood-frame addition attached to it.

Owner Mark Sauchuk said in an affidavit that he believed the original zoning permit to still be valid at the time of construction. A Zoning Board of Appeals decision in May upheld Larkin's order. The town then filed a motion for a temporary court injunction in November that would force the company to stop using the building.

The town has been working with the company to bring the building into compliance. Currently, the company has a pending site plan application in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission that would remedy the cease-and-desist order. That meeting will occur in January.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Mike Cherry said that if the company addresses comments in their site plan from the commission and other organizations such as Ledge Light Health District in January, that would be a step toward lifting the cease-and-desist order.

M J Sauchuk also has a pending application with DEEP to renew its permit as a recycling facility, though the town has complained about recycling allegedly being housed outside as recently as last week, a DEEP employee said Thursday. Numerous metal trash bins were present on the property Thursday.

Ledyard firefighters were joined at the fire scene Thursday by a host of mutual aid departments. Rotating shifts of firefighters were being called in throughout the day for relief from the frigid temperatures and acrid smoke, Jonathan Mann said. The cold also was causing hazardous conditions for firefighters, as large puddles were quickly turning into ice patches.

Firefighters from the Submarine Base, Ledyard, Gales Ferry, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal, Preston City, Poquetanuck, North Stonington, Mystic and Old Mystic were on scene. A Lawrence + Memorial Hospital medic, a building official from Preston and offcials from Groton Utilities and DEEP also responded.

Day Staff Writer Lindsay Boyle contributed to this report.

n.lynch@theday.com

g.smith@theday.com

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