NAUGATUCK — Investigators continue to sift through the charred remains of part of an industrial building that went up in flames early Saturday, but they don’t believe the fire is the work of an arsonist, a fire official said Sunday.
Naugatuck Fire Capt. Richard Alfes said the cause of the fire at 550 Spring St. doesn’t appear suspicious, but nobody will know for sure until a full investigation is completed.
He said state officials and a fire marshal from Prospect are aiding in the investigation due to the amount of damage, which combined with the contents of the building is estimated at around $3 million.
Alfes said it appears the fire started in the center of the building and was not detected until it spread outward.
“The theory is the fire started somewhere in the center, so it wasn’t visible, and the fire alarm system had something wrong with it, or it had been shut off for repairs,” Alfes said. “(Fire) got up in the attic area and just built up pressure until it blew down … the rest is history.”
People have been asked to stay away from the building until a fence is put up today.
Alfes said the site has become a tourist attraction. A guard was posted there Sunday, in part, because several people stopped by trying to salvage metal from the building, he said.
“There should be nobody in the section of the building that burned,” he said. “It is posted by the building inspector as uninhabitable and extremely dangerous.”
On Sunday, Alfes said people were allowed back into the rear portion of the building that was not severely damaged by the flames. Representatives of Yofarm Co., a yogurt company, and Multi-Metal Manufacturing Co. were at the scene Sunday salvaging items and cleaning up, he said.
Building co-owner Ralph Minervino, who is also co-owner of Multi-Metal, said Yofarm was already back up and running Sunday evening. The metal shop, however, was covered in soot and had smoke damage, he said.
A cleaning company estimated it would be several weeks before the company’s 20 employees will be able to return to work, Minervino said.
“It will be a while for us,” he said. “We’ll do it in stages so we can get going as soon as possible.”
He thanked the emergency workers who responded to the fire.
“We’re very, very grateful to the Naugatuck and Waterbury fire departments for the excellent job they did in containing the fire to the front of the building,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that those offices were a total loss, but we hope once we get through all this to have that section rebuilt.”