Explosions rock the downtown beginning at 3:45 a.m.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - Nine businesses were in flames early Tuesday morning on the southern edge of downtown White River Junction as a swift moving fire jumped from an office building beside Nutt Lane on Harrison Avenue and swept through a row of industrial structures.
On an average day nearly 200 people come to work at the tiny industrial park beside the railroad tracks on the southern end of the downtown, Kenny Keith, the owner of the complex and several businesses within it explained early Tuesday morning.
The fire broke out at the south end of South Main Street, on the river side of the tracks...
The flames consumed the two-story office building used by Eustis Cable and Argent Communications as well as workshops and warehouses belonging to White River Traffic (formerly Justin Excavating), Solarfect, and even the costume shop for the Dancer's Corner studio which, while it's dance studio is clear across the downtown, is owned by Keith's wife Doreen.
Large fuel tanks owned by Simple Energy were far enough away that they were not affected; however, numerous propane and fuel tanks on the side of the complex closest to the nearby Connecticut River were exploding from nearly the moment the fire was first reported at 3:45 a.m until it was declared under control almost two hours later at 5:43 a.m.
Just before 5 a.m. what was believed to be a 275-gallon fuel oil tank on the back of one of the buildings cooked off sending a multi-story fire ball rising dramatically into the air above ladder trucks from Hartford, Norwich, and Hanover that were working at the scene.
Hartford Chief Scott Cooney, surrounded by chiefs from a half-dozen neighboring towns, worked from a command vehicle at the entrance on Harrison Avenue as pumper trucks from as far away as Woodstock pumped water through four-inch supply lines to the aerial trucks and ground lines. Crews were pumping from hydrants along South Main Street and clear from the front lawn of the Windsor County Courthouse to supply water to the scene which cast an eerie red glow over the downtown in the pre-dawn hours.
At the far end of the line of burning buildings fire crews were working to stop the fire in a metal structure that is used to off-load paper pulp that is delivered on box cars from the nearby rail yard that has a spur track running down to the building.
Kenny Keith, co-owner of the industrial park and White River Traffic texts employees at 4 a.m. to tell them that their businesses are on fire
Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney (center) radios instructions from the command vehicle
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