About 800 people were told to evacuate from a one-mile radius of Stony Creek Quarry in Branford Thursday afternoon after a fire broke out at the Quarry. A plume of smoke could be seen for miles.
“I was coming home from work, and I did see the smoke,” said Anna Wasiolek, who lives near the Quarry. “My mom lives in the area, so I knew if we were evacuated overnight we would have a place to stay.”
Fire investigators believe workers burning empty boxes at the Quarry accidentally sparked the blaze.
“Unfortunately those empty boxes ignited one of those mats,” said Fire Marshall Shaun Heffernan. “The blaster used a fire extinguisher to put the mat out and cover it with snow. Unfortunately, small embers still remained after he left the scene, and they continued to burn the rest of the mats.”
The real concern, explosives, which were housed about 30 feet away from where the fire started. A volunteer firefighter stepped in and operated his drone to get a better glimpse from overhead of where the flames were coming from. It turned out that the flames were far enough away from the explosives to allow firefighters to move in.
“It’s safe tonight, and we’re going to keep at least two firefighters there all night to make sure it doesn’t flare up again, and if it does we’ll call the fire truck up again and put it out again,” said Fire Chief Jack Ahern.
The fire marshal’s office has ruled the blaze accidental.
Evening activities and meetings at Branford Public Schools were canceled. The Mary T. Murphy school and the Branford Community House were set up as shelters for area residents asked to evacuate their homes.