Water is safe to drink after fire in White River Junction
Some sediment is visible due to heavy pumping overnight
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - The massive amount of water pulled from the town wells in Wilder to support the fire suppression effort as six buildings burned in the industrial park on the southern edge of White River Junction Tuesday morning left some sediment visible in the drinking water downtown but it's nothing to worry about, Hartford Town Manager Leo Pullar assured residents Tuesday afternoon.
"It's just because we had a large volume of water moving through the pipes all at once," Pullar explained. "It's an enclosed system so it's still potable, drinkable water. If people are put off by the sediment they can just let it settle. It's completely safe to drink. There is no 'boil order' needed for our water."
Hartford Town Manager Leo Pullar at the fire scene Tuesday morning.
Pullar said that town and state officials, as well as residents and businesses downtown, have been rallying throughout the day to assist the nine businesses and their dozens of employees who were affected by the early morning blaze.
"Big Fatty's was bringing lunch to the people down there and The Engine Room co-working space is offering their office facilities to companies as they regroup," Pullar noted, adding that the Vermont Department of Labor has been contacted and employees who have been put out of work because of the fire will be eligible for unemployment benefits. The town as well as Vermont Department of Economic Development and the local office of Green Mountain Economic Development are working to assist displaced businesses in finding new workspaces, Pullar said.
"The community is coming together to do what we can to be responsive," he added.
Looking down on the fire scene from Hanover's tower ladder.
The combined tax assessed value of the six buildings, which were all owned by White River Investment Properties LLC, was $872,000.
The former lumberyard which sits between the railroad tracks and the bank of the Connecticut River was opened in 1943 by Frank Gilman but the oldest buildings there date to 1951 when another fire completely destroyed the complex.
Intense heat caused vertical steel I-beams supporting the roof to curl inward.
Hartland truck driver Matt Dunbar was one of the first people to call 911 after the fire broke out at approximately 3:45 a.m. Tuesday morning. Arriving at the complex following a long haul, Dunbar had gone to take a nap around 2 a.m. in his sleeper cab when he was awoken by "a big bang." Dunbar noticed a red glow coming from the rear-view mirror in his cab and crawled forward to see a transformer on a nearby power pole flickering. Spotting flames inside the first garage bay in the facility housing Eustis Cable company trucks, Dunbar called and told the dispatchers, "You need to get here now. There's a lot of stuff down here that's about to blow up!" Dunbar said that he, like many of the people who work in the facility, has long standing family ties to the complex. His father worked in the lumber yard when it was owned by CDF Building Products in the 70s and 80s.
Hanover Fire Captain Jeremy Thibeault sprays water from atop the ladder truck on Tuesday over the scene.
Hartford Deputy Chief Alan Beebe looks over a pulp paper warehouse that firefighters managed to save even though flames had gotten inside the building during the height of the blaze.
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