Fire breaks out in Willimantic Waste and UConn is on the front lines

Fire departments from UConn and Willimantic along with other units work around the clock to prevent debris from the Willimantic waste company from reigniting. (Kobe Amos/The Daily Campus)

Willimantic Waste Paper Company was damaged beyond repair by a fire that burnt down one facility and warped steel supports according to  Windham fire chief Marc Scrivener.

The fire took place in a 100,000 square foot facility housing tons of plaster, wood and debris and required up to about 200 firefighters working all day Sunday to get the fire under control at the family-owned business, according to Scrivener.

“It’s not just putting water on a fire,” said Willimantic Town Manager James Rivers.

On Monday, 40 firefighters were still present on the scene operating excavators used to pull construction debris out that was emitting constant billows of smoke, according to Rivers.

Windham Fire Department thanks the University of Connecticut Fire Department for their assistance with the fire, Windham fire chief Marc Scrivener said.

“The way things work in this area is UConn, Mansfield and Willimantic work together. If one has a fire, the others are there to back them up,” Scrivener said. “We are very grateful to have UConn back us up and we are very happy to back them up. We work strongly together and well together.”

UConn was “front and center” putting out the flames, with the assistance of their new tower truck, according to Rivers.

“They will be one of the last to leave. We really appreciate that,” Rivers said.

Although the fire is under control, the damage brought on to the facility proves to be beyond repair and will be condemned by building officials, Rivers said.

“The building is a total loss and will  need to be torn down,” Rivers said.  “A lot of steel was warped.”

Willimantic collects and processes garbage and recyclables in Hartford, New London, Tolland, Middlesex and Windham counties.

These operations were still running accordingly on Monday morning, Rivers said.

At UConn, services pertaining to disposal at Willimantic Waste will, as of now, not be affected by the incident, according to UConn spokesperson Tom Breen.

School in closer in proximity to the incident did, however, feel the effects. Schools throughout Windham were closed due to concerns of hazardous smoke being blown throughout the city, according to Rivers.

Eastern Connecticut State University was one of the schools closed. Evidence of the fire was still present Monday morning, said Kirsten Thompson third-semester ECSU elementary education major.

“I noticed a thick discolored fog around campus on Sunday,” Thompson said. “There was also a noticeable smokey smell that lingered well into Monday. We were advised by administration to stay indoors.”

The cause of the fire is still unclear, but an investigation will begin on Monday, according to Rivers.


Lillian Whittaker is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lillian.whittaker@uconn.edu.