Southington fire officials said waste oil vats were responsible for a Tuesday morning fire at the Rex Forge industrial building leading to heavy flames that reached as high as 100 feet. The intense fire on Atwater Street caused the western portion of the building to collapse.
The fire began just before 8 a.m. on the manufacturing floor of the hot forging building. Scott DiBattista said the fire began in a vat and quickly spread to several vats in the nearby area.
"It was a complete defensive operation," DiBattista said. "Due to the size of the fire on arrival, we were forced to send out a general alarm and call in all Southington firefighters. They fought the fire from outside the building because due to the heat and height of the flames, we knew there was a danger of the building collapsing."
There were a few minor issues reported with workers who suffered smoke inhalation, DiBattista said, but the building was evacuated before fire officials arrived and those who suffered smoke inhalation were treated on scene and released.
Dean Barnes, an employee at the office about a quarter mile away, said he was awed by the level of flame before fire officials arrived.
Barnes had been traveling to get breakfast when he saw the flames shooting in the air from the western end of the building.
"It started on the left side with flames showing from the roof and the walls," Barnes said. "I was here five minutes before the first truck arrived. Flames were shooting as high as 100 feet and I could feel the heat from over 250 feet away."
"It's amazing to see how quickly these things just erupt," said Barnes, who also witnessed the fire on Clark Street in Plantsville earlier this year. "My immediate concern was for the workers inside, but I was told they were out of the building."
The general alarm fire forced fire officials to call in mutual aid from surrounding towns including Cheshire, Berlin and Plainville, DiBattista said. Cheshire officials were on scene while the all three towns were helping cover stations. A general alarm is a call for any available firefighters in town to report for duty.
The fire caused excessive water runoff into the Quinnipiac river and caused workers with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to set up a protective water dam at the south end of Atwater Street.
Oil could be seen in the river, but officials were unsure how much had run off by the time the response was completed. One report stated as many as 1,000 gallons spilled into the Quinnipiac River which flows into Cheshire.
"At this point, we expect to be here well into the afternoon to continue to knock down any flare ups and assess the situation inside the building," DiBattista said. "We have established recon teams who are continuing their work inside right now."
Firefighters are battling a blaze that has left a Southington industrial building near collapse and forced the department to call for mutual aid from the Cheshire and Plainville Fire Departments.
The fire broke out at the Rex Forge building on Atwater Street at around 8 a.m., dispatchers said, with the 200,000 square foot building in danger of collapsing.
No injuries have been reported at this time, Rex company officialssaid employees were able to leave the building before fire officials arrived.
"It started on the left side with flames showing from the roof and the walls," said Dean Barnes, a worker with New Britain Transportation, about a quarter mile away. "I was here five minutes before the first truck arrived. Flames were shooting as high as 100 feet and I could feel the heat from over 250 feet away."
Rex Forge is a forging and manufacturing company that produces metal products according to the company's website. The company has been operation under several names for the past 150 years.
Atwater Street is closed from the off-ramp to Interstate 84, down through the industrial district and all the way to South Main Street.
Emergency workers will continue to work on scene for the next several hours. Fire officials have not released an official statement.
Check back in with Southington Patch for updates as they become available.