Massive Fire Forces Evacuation Of 400, Shoreline Fishing In City Banned

From Public Safety spokesman Bill Kaempffer, Friday afternoon update:

After a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flyover, the state scaled back fishing restrictions after water runoff from a massive fire Thursday left a reddish purple film in the water. Fishing along the Bridgeport shoreline from the Fairfield border to Pleasure Beach remains banned. Recreational and commercial fishing is allowed in open water.

Originally, the ban spanned from Norwalk to Milford. The ban has been lifted in the other towns.

Shell fishing remains banned from Fairfield to the Housatonic River.

The state DEEP and U. S. Coast Guard are taking extensive sample of the water to determine if there is anything harmful.

“We want people to understand that this material is in the water and that we need to determine if it harmful. So please don’t fish,” said David Poynton, the emergency response coordinator for the DEEP.

At this time, it is believed that the material is some type of dye. The bans will remain in place “until we feel very confident that the water quality is ok,” he said.

The city closed down Pleasure Beach and also cautioned people against swimming along the shoreline in Bridgeport until the analysis was competed.

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Jonathan Theel said the helicopter flyover just after dawn showed that the contaminated runoff was confined to the Yellow Mill Channel and flowed into the Bridgeport Harbor at the confluence of the Pequonnock River. It did not flow into the Long Island Sound.

The EPA and the civil response team from the Connecticut National Guard continue to measure air quality. Those tests have shown no hazards.

Firefighters continued to wet down the rubble Friday afternoon.

“This was a very challenging fire. There were huge explosions about every five minutes but the firefighters didn’t give an inch of ground,” he said. “I was to praise the firefighters for doing the tremendous job they did.

More than 80 firefighters battled the 5-alarm fire.

Rowayton Trading Co., a business that was destroyed, contained 1,000 55 gallon drums of various chemicals, including fragrances. The company buys used lots of chemicals and sells them. Contents from those drums is believed to be the source of the contaminated run-off.

JWC Roofing and Siding, a wholesaler for home improvement contractors, also was destroyed.

The two businesses employed about 50 people.

Both were located at 25 Grant St. Firefighters responded to the 2100 block of Seaview Avenue just after 6:45 p.m. Thursday on the report of fire. That location appears to be the rear of one of the businesses.

Dozens of firefighters remained at the scene this morning of a five-alarm fire that destroyed two businesses and forced evacuations in the city’s East Side. The U.S. Coast Guard and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection also remained on scene.

The DEEP yesterday stationed monitors testing air quality and detected no risk to public health. The smoke could cause respiratory irritation to people with preexisting respiratory conditions.

Meanwhile, the state and U.S. Coast Guard are testing water samples from the Pequonnock River and the Bridgeport Harbor to determine if water run-off from firefighting efforts carried any hazards into the waterway.

A foamy substance with a red tint was observed in the water, so the Coast Guard will fly a helicopter this morning over the harbor and along the shoreline to determine its spread.

As a precaution, all commercial and recreational fishing is prohibited from Norwalk to Milford while tests are completed, according to Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined. The buildings sustained multiple collapse areas so fire investigators have not yet entered the fire area.

A massive, four-alarm blaze burned for hours and destroyed two buildings Thursday evening. Firefighters responded to the 2100 block of Seaview Avenue and encountered heavy fire in an industrial building. A thick black smoke plume could be seen for miles into the night.

As the fire burned out of control, nearly every firefighter in the city responded. Incident commanders called the Fairfield and Stratford fire departments for mutual aid. As the fire grew in intensity and spread to a second structure, crews from the Trumbull, Westport and Norwalk departments responded to assist as well.

Every few minutes, an explosion inside one of the buildings would send a huge fireball about a hundred feet in the air.

“Firefighters are working very hard under extraordinarily difficult conditions,” said Fire Chief Brian Rooney. “We have all hands on deck, plus addition hands from neighboring departments.”

Firefighters discovered  that the fireballs resulted from superheated drums of perfume and other chemicals exploding inside Rowayton Trading Co. That business was destroyed. JWC Roofing and Siding, located behind the building where the fire was first reported, also was destroyed.

“The fireballs and the heat were like nothing I have ever seen,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. There was no loss of life.”

Three firefighters were treated at the hospital heat- and smoke-related concerns but are expected to be ok, he said.

The heat from the fire was so intense that it melted siding on houses across the street and flying embers started several small roof fires that firefighters quickly extinguished.

Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. said approximately 400 people were evacuated. The fire caused a large power outage but by midnight the United Illuminating Co. website reported all but 133 customers had been restored.

Residents in the area were advised to keep their windows shut because of the heavy smoke.



  1. What about the firefighters who fought that fire, what steps are being taken to see what they inhaled while at that fire? Nothing was said by Fire Chief Rooney or in the news article.

    1. Andrew C Fardy, you are correct but you know after the fire is knocked down or when they change their tank, they are breathing in those fumes. The article said, “As a precaution, all commercial and recreational fishing is prohibited from Norwalk to Milford while tests are completed, according to Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski.” If there is that type of concern for fish then hopefully there is the same concern for the firefighters. If something is detected then testing should be done for the firefighters.

  2. And as important, did both these companies have on file with the BFD all required documentation as far as the chemicals that are stored there and is the BFD maintaining this info so it was immediately forwarded to fire companies on the scene?
    Is the BFD conducting inspections of these facilities and ensuring in advance all is being properly recorded?

    1. Bob Walsh, very good point, firefighters responding should have been made aware what was in those buildings to make sure things wouldn’t get worse by putting water on those chemicals.

  3. Recently, Elliot Alfaro, an excellent human being and retired fire department member, passed away. He was one of the good ones. During Elliot’s assignment to Engine 12 he suffered a head injury and suffered from seizes afterwards. I mention this because it’s important and everyone needs to know just how Rooney treated Elliot after the accident. The passenger door of Engine 12 was being held closed with a bungee cord, but was kept on duty. During one of Engine 12’s runs while leaving its quarters the door swung open and Elliot fell out and struck his head. Who was in charge? Rooney.

    Too many hydrants off duty, we need them repaired! Screw the law … I’m in charge!

    The MEETING between I’m in charge, the Maintenance Shop and a water contractor. The offer, if you repair the hydrants using “lead,” which is the quickest way to make repairs and place hydrants back on duty, you will get a no-bid contract. The contractor knew it was illegal to use lead, he immediately refused and left the meeting. Total disregard for public health. Wasn’t the Shop supposed to have an asst. chief in charge?

    Does retired Fire Chief Maglione have two city pensions too?

    Rooney accepted the position of fire chief while still a member of the fire department and on its payroll. There was no break in service. Therefore, his service time would have continued with no service break between assistant chief/provisional chief to that of fire chief. His continuation of service time should have been counted towards his one retirement payment based on fire chief salary. Not two as he claimed he was owed. So does Maglione also have two city pensions?

    Where is the Fire Marshal? He should have all the MSDS information. He’s Rooney’s chosen member of the Fairfield County Hazmat Team, and should be responding to hazmat questions. Not Rooney or sidekick Carfi.

    Each and every response vehicle should have been equipped with in-vehicle computers. It is 2014 … hello. Computers would have all building plot plans, city hydrant maps on-duty/off-duty and MSDS information, etc. Rooney didn’t know LT. Vasquez and FF Baik didn’t have tested SCBA. He was too busy with other nonsense.

    Rooney and the rest of the chief officers are more concerned about getting their own new vehicles, painting the walls green or getting new office furniture then addressing safety issues.

    Rooney is no asbestos technician to say there is no asbestos present. Have building and water samples been taken and tested? The rank and file should never ever trust this man with their safety and well-being. He’s proven he is incapable of that, remember Steve and Mitch.

  4. Don Tito, there is more than enough blame to go around for what happened to Elliot. Rooney can be blamed because he is in charge of the department but let’s put the blame where it belongs.
    1. The company or house captain for not having this equipment taken off duty.
    2. The shift officer for the same reason.
    3. Local 834 for not pushing to have the truck taken out of service.
    4. The shop for not repairing the door.
    So if we are to lay blame, let’s put it where it belongs.
    After 30 years of service, Rooney could not increase his pension percentage. If you are going to hire in-house you will always face paying a person his pension and a salary for the chief’s job.
    Why haven’t the safety issues you state are there been brought to the public’s attention by the union? Where are they in all these safety issues? How many hydrants citywide are broken and out of service? I do know the hydrants in my neighborhood have not been tested.

    1. Andy, I agree with you to a degree.

      Engine 12 was running with a spare, Rooney knew this and he also knew no matter what the union did, the grievance procedure would take months if not years to be addressed. Engine 12 should never have been allowed to be in-service, Rooney should have been calling other communities to get an engine until proper repairs were made.

      The Safety Committee was given a hard time at every attempt to make the job safer. Safety Committee members need to speak up and out. In fact, I believe some Safety Committee members were disciplined for being at meetings. David Dunn, need I say more?

      One pension, why? Thirty years at chief pay since there was no break in service. And of course you have to pay them chief’s pay for the time they serve as chief. But why Asst. Chief/Deputy Chief’s pension plus another pension as Chief? This was a through-the-ranks hire, not an outside of the department hire. Grossly mishandled by all involved, unless underhanded deals were made. Again, does Maglione get two pension checks?

      Bet the department doesn’t know your neighborhood has hydrants! They probably think Trumbull responds with a tanker.

  5. Don Tito, I guess you don’t know I live in Bridgeport not Trumbull but that’s okay, Finch and company treat us like we are in Trumbull, in fact I have an alderman from Shelton.
    With all the new engines that have been bought, none were kept as spares? In fact if you guys are still running double engines in certain companies then one of those engines could have been used.
    The union has to be stronger when firefighters are forced to use faulty equipment, no excuses. Would the union back the men if they refused to respond with that truck?
    If Rooney were acting chief before he took over as the “Chief” then he did not receive acting chief’s pay in his retirement. If Rooney gets a double pension it will be after he does 10 years and it will be under whatever pension covers supervisors. As to what hazardous materials were in the building, that should be known by the first-due companies.

    1. Andrew C Fardy, as to what hazardous materials were in the building, that should be known by the first-due companies. Well, Ch 8 news said no one knows what chemicals were in that fire. Were there any pre-fire plans for those companies, were there any mobile inspections of those buildings?

      Andrew C Fardy, BARF and Don Tito, what’s missing or what should be done next?

    2. Andy Fardy, Rooney was made a “provisional,” the last Civil Service Director made a written report and gave it to the Civil Service members. The report gave the reasons how Rooney became “provisional.” Rooney asked to be made and he was made but the report states why that was wrong and what the City’s problems are with making provisional instead of giving promotional exams. This report was given to the Conn. Post, which did nothing with the report.

  6. Ron, there should have been inspections of those buildings by both the first-in companies and by the Fire Marshal. The perfume company had there MSDS sheet on-line and I am sure the FM has an MSDS sheet for this company. As you know, fire inspections are lackluster at best. It’s up to the officers and men of the first due companies in any area to know the hazardous occupancies and why they are hazardous. Knowing this information could save firefighter lives.

    1. That is weak, Andy. I am not surely what the law is now but I am guessing having an MSDS list online at the company web site doesn’t hack it.
      And if you are going to believe they must have filed on with the BFD, then why are people saying they didn’t know chemicals were in there?
      Does the BFD have this fully computerized? Guaranteed access? If so, why not have it fully accessible to the public so employees, neighboring businesses and local residents have full access to this data?
      And there is no substitute for mandatory annual inspections of all commercial properties on the city. Period. No excuse whatsoever.

      1. Bob, I did not say having MSDS sheets online covered their asses. People are saying and I think you mean firefighters, they don’t know what is in the buildings is probably true because any MSDS sheets for this and hundreds of other sites are kept in an office. The ones who should know are the first-due fire companies. Bob, all commercial and apartment buildings from three-family up are inspected every year.

  7. If there were more paid fire departments in the area, there would be a mass exodus of good hard-working fireman like the Bridgeport police department.
    Full classes of good young policemen do a few years and leave for double the pay in the suburbs.
    As a resident, I do not feel safe in this city knowing the worst of the worst young officers are protecting my family as all the good ones are being paid double in areas that have no gangs or bad crimes on a regular basis.

  8. Ron and Andy,
    I know you both live, breathe, bleed and live in Bpt. I admire how you look to improve the lives of those who live and pay taxes in Bpt. Andy, I was being facetious about the Trumbull Tanker. It’d be a bad time to find out the hydrant operating nut doesn’t work when you need it to.

    In my opinion the site is an environmental disaster of the waterway involved, the residence and entire neighborhood. Residents should be being told to wash down anything that has soot on it as a precaution.

    The union should be telling members exposed to water, smoke and soot to fill out WC 30C forms to CYA each member. If you touched hose lines or cleaned them you were exposed, simple stuff. Turnout gear should be tested to be sure it wasn’t compromised. You can rest assured the administration won’t do it. Look at the ailments developed to those who responded on 9/11. The first thing the FD/city will do is ask for where’s your 30C.

    There needs to be a creation of a database that houses all MSDS info, currently updating hydrant info on/off which can be updated at the company level, construction types, current owner info, insurance info, etc. You can use a NIFIRS report to start with. Laptops have to integrated into all FD vehicles, no excuses.

    This is just an example to get the discussion going.

  9. What you say here is right on the money. The firefighters should file the necessary paperwork because you never know what the effects of fighting this fire are.
    During 9/11, four of my guys all retired NYFD fire marshals and I were at the site. Two of my guys worked in the morgue and two worked the pile. So far one guy has suffered a 30% loss of lung capacity and this was verified by comparing his retirement physical to the one taken after 9/11.
    My son who is an electrician worked on the newest power plant in Milford. He and a group of workers install vent fans under a new building. They were to learn later they were exposed to chemicals buried in the ground. Many of many son’s friends are suffering from cancer and my son suffers from seizures. The state admitted they did not properly report on the hazardous material that was in the ground because of manpower shortages.
    I will say this, every firefighters at the scene should be checked by professionals in the medical field.
    The city needs to spend some of the federal monies on improving things for the responding firefighters like computers and such.


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