More than a dozen area fire departments took part in extinguishing the Jan. 6 blaze that broke out at Calamari’s Recycling on Dump Road. Mutual aid firefighters chipped in to help out from as far away as Norwich, in an effort to contain the fire, which burned for more than 24 continuous hours.
There were no injuries as a result of the flames, which created thick, billowy clouds of smoke for several days causing town and school officials in the area to take extra precautions in regard to air quality conditions. Students at Essex Elementary School were held inside for recess on Jan. 7 and 8 to ensure safety and the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection visited the area to conduct air quality testing. At press time, all air quality tests came back within safe range, however those with respiratory issues were cautioned to take precautions when breathing the smoky air.
The fire started in the construction and demolition debris building, one of the four buildings on the Calamari Recycling property. The other three building house the mainstay of the business, scrap metal.
“We had to close down on Thursday [Jan. 7] just because we couldn’t get access to the area, because of the fire personnel, but other than that we have been open for business and will be open for business,” said Jeff Festa, a buyer for Calamari Recycling.
He confirmed that at press time, the cause of the fire was thought to be a spark from a cardboard bailer.
Essex firefighters as well the Essex Public Works Department stayed on scene for 28 straight hours from the beginning of the fire. The Public Works Department opened up the town’s transfer station building to firefighters as a warming center during the cold night hours, as well as area to regroup and use the bathroom. In addition, Public Works supplied more than 500 gallons of diesel fuel to tanker engines that were on scene and needed to make repeat water runs to Kelsey Pond. They also helped to keep the roads free from ice with sand and salt applications.
“It was a united effort to get this fire under control,” said Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman. “This was an unfortunate event that happened, but thankfully no one was hurt. We owe an enormous amount of gratitude to all the volunteer services that came to our rescue and helped to minimize the impact of this fire. I am always impressed with how these guys operate and help each other out.”
At one point it was estimated that more than 150 fire fighters from more than 15 different departments throughout the state helped out with this fire.
“The support efforts are amazing, and I am astonished at how many departments came to our aid. We can’t say ‘Thank you’ enough,” added Needleman.
Calamari is now assessing its next steps.
“We are having a structural engineer come to the site to assess the building,” said Festa. “Things will depend on that report how we move forward.”