Fire Marshal Says Conn. Mill Fire Likely Set

April 29, 2005

A blaze that destroyed the vacant InterRoyal Mill complex in Plainfiled, Conn. on April 26 appears to have been set by someone, town Fire Marshal Paul Yellen said.

Yellen said it was too early to know whether the fire was started on purpose or by accident. He said teens had recently been found trespassing on the property.

The fire continued to smolder two days after it started. Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency tested the air for asbestos and lead.

Preliminary test results showed that abestos and lead were found at and near the mill, but health officials said it was unlikely that anyone near the fire would have more than a short-term, low-level exposure. They also said groundwater appeared to be safe.

But people who had been evacuated from the area were still not being allowed to return to their homes, and town officials canceled school for a second consecutive day.

About 20 homes were evacuated, and other residents were urged to keep their windows closed and call a hot line if they found debris in their yards.

The fire started at about 7 p.m. Tuesday. Smoke could be seen for miles. Fire departments from around the region responded. No injuries were reported.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who toured the site, said the state will do what it can to help with the cleanup.

“We’re not going to let money stand in the way of securing this site and making it safe,” she said. “That’s our first order of business. We’ll deal with the financing.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the buildings in the complex were collapsing and contain asbestos. Town officials also said the ground under the complex is contaminated with various industrial chemicals.

Jeff Chandler, the emergency response coordinator for the DEP, said tests found no organic compounds in the air or water around the mill.

Officials said people up to three miles from the site might be affected if the air is contaminated, but rain was expected to lessen the effect.

“The fact that it’s raining is keeping everything down on the ground, which is outstanding,” Chandler said.

The mill closed its doors after the office furniture manufacturing business went bankrupt in 1985. Part of the site was used for plastic recycling in the early 1990s, but the complex has been vacant since 1992.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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