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An Investigation into the Cause of the Big Mystic Fire Has Begun

Fire authorities predicted they would need several days to sift through the wreckage of the Seaport Marine warehouse and office building, which was completely destroyed in a Sunday night fire. Even though it is still extremely early in the inquiry, Mystic Fire Chief Anthony Manfredi Jr., who also acts as incident marshal, said nothing about the fire sticks out as odd.

“This scene is still very much in progress. We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Manfredi said Monday afternoon as he stood outside the 2 Washington St. fire scene, which was blocked off. All day Monday, there was a lot of activity at the scene as firefighters put out hot spots, investigators dug through the debris, and crews replaced charred utility lines in an effort to bring the nearby homes and businesses back online.

Up until Monday evening, it was anticipated that homes and businesses on Cottrell, Washington, and Willow streets would be without electricity. After the incident, 158 people lost power altogether, and 69 customers were still without power as of late on Monday.

Manfredi requested assistance from the state’s Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit for the task of determining what started the fire at the sizable industrial facility on the Mystic River. According to Manfredi, the burning complex of buildings housed offices, and painting business, and was primarily used for storage. Both Fighting Lady Tackle Co. and Prestige Yacht Sales have addresses listed as 2 Washington St.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Monday, a wind-driven fire lit up the night sky and caused damage to a nearby house at 4 Washington St. Before the fire spread, the home’s inhabitant and his dog were able to safely escape, according to Manfredi.

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No injuries were reported, according to Manfredi, however one firefighter was treated on the spot for smoke inhalation. There were burned remains of multiple boats, a car, and a forklift scattered among the fire’s charred remains.

Manfredi claimed that chemicals, fuel, and propane tanks inside the building likely contributed to the size of the fire in addition to the wind. According to him, the pops and explosions reported by adjacent homes were probably caused by propane tanks going off.

When firefighters arrived Monday night, the building’s front was heavily on fire. Residents in the area were evacuated as a precaution when a fourth warning was raised, bringing in additional resources from adjacent departments.

Wind, which changed directions and pushed the fire through the warehouse, accelerated the rate at which the fire spread. Firefighters used four aerial fire engines, water from hydrants, and a fire boat on the Mystic River to help contain the inferno as they switched to “defensive mode” and poured water on it from a safe distance.

Pat Ryan, who frequently takes his daughter to Cottrell Park, which is located across the street from Seaport Marine, claimed that he and a few others observed the fire from the Groton side of Mystic across the river. Ryan said, “It lit up the sky.”

The fire’s orange light, according to locals, was reminiscent of the nearby fire in 2000 that destroyed numerous shops on West Main Street and could be seen for miles. According to Marjorie Wheeler, who was in town to visit her son, “the flames were sky high.”

She claimed that the power went out where she was residing on Rosaleah Drive as a result of the fire. Manfredi claimed that due to firemen coming across burning and fallen cables close to the fire, a sizable area temporarily lost electricity.

Wheeler remarked, “What startled me were the twirling flames, like a tornado.” The facilities where the fire started were formerly a part of the Post Boat Yard, a boat manufacturing company and workshop, according to longtime Mystic resident Fran Walenta. Malcolm Robertson had previously owned it when it later changed its name to Seaport Marine.

According to Walenta, the wooden floors of the structures likely have decades’ worth of paint and other boat construction materials built up on them, which likely added to the intensity of the fire. At 2 Washington St., Seaport Marine is a component of a larger complex that also includes boat berths and the Red 36 restaurant. This property is presently owned by the Holstein family under the name Waterfront Group LLC.

The 11.5-acre site, which some locals claim has deteriorated recently, was once thought to be the location of a hotel, boardwalk, and condominium development project known as Smiler’s Wharf. When contacted on Monday for comment regarding the future of the property, Harry Boards, general manager at Seaport Marine, did not answer the phone.

Instead, Boards thanked the fire department’s efforts to limit the damage in a statement distributed through the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce. We are working to quickly remove the debris from the site. We appreciate the efforts of the first responders in putting out the fire and safeguarding nearby property, said Boards.

On Monday, Chamber of Commerce President Bruce Flax congratulated the firefighters and expressed support for Seaport Marine. He added that the fire department’s actions were responsible for there being no injuries recorded and no neighboring residences or businesses suffering damage.

Flax stated that Mystic businesses are still operating and that the fire shouldn’t deter people from visiting to support neighborhood stores and eateries. The owner of Northern Light Gems, Tony Suarez, who was present at the scene of the incident on Monday and claimed it could have been worse, had a storefront there for decades. “You might have lost half the town if the wind had changed,” he remarked.

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