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Suspicious Fire Razes part of abandoned Paper Mill; burns for days

By NATE ARNOLD, Correspondent | June 19, 2020 | MASSACHUSETTS

Story No. 062320107

A fire that would subsequently burn for several days started early in the evening of Friday June 19, 2020 and would require task force responses from 4 counties to the Western Hampden County town of Russell.
911 calls reporting a large fire at the long abandoned Strathmore Paper Mill number 2 on Valley View Avenue started coming in at 8:30 p.m. on an unseasonably hot, humid early summer night. Russell fire fighters arrived on scene to find a heavy volume of fire destroying a single story portion of the mill and threatening to take possession of the three story portions of the complex. No time was wasted in calling for mutual aid as this small town volunteer department only has 28 members on the roster. Crews from every neighboring town soon started streaming into to help their overwhelmed brethren but the night was young, the fire was large and there were many obstacles to overcome.
The fire hydrants closest to the mill proved ineffective early on in the operation as they were on a dead end main that was under sized for the volume of fire it was tasked with fighting. The nearby Westfield river, a tributary of the Connecticut river was inaccessible due to rocky shores which made for no safe or quick way to initiate a drafting operation and possibly the crowning insult to local fire crews, the bridge that carries Valley View Avenue over the river is a temporary, one lane span that was installed to replace the dilapidated Bridge St. bridge and has a maximum weight restriction of seventy five thousand pounds which limited the number of apparatus that could access the scene to one vehicle at a time. A long duration operation ensued which involved tankers traveling to the neighboring
City of Westfield to fill up at a hydrant that could supply the necessary water and then shuttling back to the scene to dump their loads into portable tanks. This effort continued around the clock for more than 72 hours with Russell fire fighters rotating off scene for rest and rehab while mutual aid from several counties away continued the fire fighting effort. Nearly 100 fire fighters have rotated through the scene as of this articles writing and the building is expected to smolder for days on end. The cause of the fire has been deemed suspicious by the State Fire Marshal's office and a $5,000 reward was posted for information leading to an arrest.

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.