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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    Blaze at Norwich transfer station called 'big Dumpster fire'

    Yantic firefighters pull hoses into position Thursday, June 30, 2022, to battle a blaze at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

    Norwich — Fire gutted a large building full of paper, plastic and cardboard recyclables and construction debris at the Rogers Road transfer station Thursday afternoon, causing no injuries to workers but keeping firefighters busy for several hours to ensure all burning trash was extinguished, city and landfill officials said.

    The fire started shortly after 1 p.m. inside the 120-by-60-foot, metal-frame building, engulfing the structure in flames. No workers were inside the building at time, as the three employees of management firm Casella Waste Management were on lunch break, said Mark Dimauro, division manager for Casella.

    Dimauro said at 4 p.m. Thursday that it’s too soon to say the cause of the fire or the extent of the damage, but an unacceptable item may have been thrown into the recycling bin. No equipment was inside the building, but the building likely is a total loss.

    Half the building contained mixed recyclable materials, including paper, cardboard and plastic, and the other half housed construction debris, Norwich Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said.

    “It’s basically a big Dumpster fire,” Dimauro said.

    Thick smoke covered the Yantic area and uphill to Dodd Stadium by evening.

    McLaughlin said the transfer station will be closed Friday and Saturday because of the fire, and Monday for the July Fourth holiday. The transfer station will reopen Tuesday. Curbside trash and recyclable collections will not be disrupted by the fire, he said. Next week, collections will follow the normal holiday week schedule, with collections to be done one day later than normal for residents.

    Norwich Public Utilities was notified of the fire immediately and shut off power service to the transfer station, NPU General Manager Chris LaRose said. The utility also shut off power connections to the nearby solar fields as a precaution. The solar panels are about 100 to 200 feet from the building, McLaughlin estimated.

    NPU has no water lines or fire hydrants along the rural Rogers Road, so fire crews resorted to water tanker trucks to attack the fire.

    Yantic Fire Chief Bill Eyeburse said his department was fighting the fire with mutual aid from all of Norwich’s volunteer departments, along with the City of Norwich Fire Department and from neighboring towns such as Bozrah, Lebanon and Franklin.

    Taftville and the city provided the aerial trucks and throughout the day were pumping water that was hauled to the scene and dumped into portable water tanks. Water came from 10 different tanker trucks, Eyeburse said.

    Firefighters had changed their strategy by Thursday evening. Firefighters had established a relay with 6,000 feet of 5-inch hose stretched from a hydrant on Otrobando Avenue to the fire, with several pumper trucks helping to move the water. The move replaced the need for a tanker relay.

    “It’s going to be a long-term operation. The building has collapsed in on itself and it’s basically piles of cardboard and paper burning,” Eyeburse said.

    At 7:30 p.m., Eyeburse said an excavator with a 90-foot reach was pulling apart the smoldering paper and cardboard and allowing firefighters to douse it with water. He expected firefighters to be there until at least midnight.

    Due to the continued fire operations on Rogers Road, Otrobando Avenue at Wawecus Street will be closed on the West Town Street side. Access to and across Wawecus Street to New London Turnpike is closed. To continue successful fire operation and water flow, city officials ask motorists not to drive over any fire hoses, as driving over them would damage vehicles and the fire hoses and reduce the effectiveness of the fire operations. This is expected to continue through the night.

    c.bessette@theday.com

    g.smith@theday.com

    A firefighter directs water from the City of Norwich Fire Department tower ladder as crews battle a blaze Thursday, June 30, 2022, at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
    A Yantic firefighter pulls a hose off the engine Thursday, June 30, 2022, as crews arrive to battle a blaze at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
    Mutual aid tankers fill portable tanks to supply water as fire crews battle a blaze Thursday, June 30, 2022, at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
    Yantic firefighters direct a hose stream on the fire Thursday, June 30, 2022, as crews battle a blaze at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
    Two city of Norwich firefighters get a bird's eye view of the scene from the tower ladder bucket while waiting for water Thursday, June 30, 2022, as crews battle a blaze at the transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
    Yantic firefighters pull hoses into position to battle a blaze Thursday, June 30, 2022, at the city transfer station on Rogers Road in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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