ORANGE, Mass. (WWLP) – Five buildings were destroyed during a fire at a former cereal factory in Orange Saturday.
According to State Fire Marshal’s Spokesperson Jake Wark, crews were called to 16 West River Street at around 11:45 a.m. Saturday for reported smoke and flames at the vacant mill building. Four additional buildings were also on fire, including one on East River Street.
“I live a half mile down of the West River. Saw the smoke across the river within ten minutes of it starting,” said James Davis of Orange.
Orange Fire Chief James Young told 22News, “That building was structurally compromised prior to the fire and we had to close the road down out of concern for partial collapse of that building at some point was imminent.”
On March 29th the old cereal factory building was considered a danger due to structural concerns. The fire department closed a section of West River Street to vehicles and pedestrians due to glass and brick falling out of the building onto the street. West River Street at the intersection of Route 122 remains closed, a detour will remain in place until further notice. Residents are asked to use caution in the area.
More than 30 departments assisted including Athol, Amherst, Belchertown, Bernardston, Greenfield, Ware, Turners Falls, Warwick, Pelham, Northfield, Ware, and the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.
“On behalf of the Town and our firefighters, I’d like to express our gratitude for the enormous assistance we received from mutual aid departments and members of the community,” Orange Fire Chief Young. “Given the size of this fire, our priority was to prevent any further spread that might put residents at risk.”
The air is being monitored for health hazards by a Hazmat team as the smoke emanates.
The Orange Fire Department says no firefighters were injured however, two civilians suffered minor burns and are expected to be okay. Bourgeois Wrecking, a demolition and excavation company, helped with debris clean-up.
“As somebody who grew up here, it’s very tragic to see the skyline I grew up looking at come down but as some other people have said, I’m really excited to see what is gonna come up. I truly don’t think anyone has pockets big enough to deal with this so as tragic as it is, I’m excited to see what’s coming,” said Jerry Whaland, owner of Bill Goat Boats.
“I’m just a resident that would like to see the town go forward and put this behind it,” said Davis.
The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Orange Fire Department, Orange Police Department, the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, and the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s office.
“We’re asking anyone with information on how this fire started to share it with investigators,” said Chief Young. “You can remain anonymous if you prefer.”
If you have any information on the fire or individuals involved up to $5,000 is being offered, contact the Arson Watch Reward Program Hotline 1-800-682-9229.