The resources of the Marlborough Fire Department wee heavily taxed on the evening on April 18th when a three alarm fire ripped through a portion of a vacant commercial building presently under renovation.

Marlborough Fire Alarm received multiple calls for smoke in the area of the former Rich’s Foods building on Simarano Drive. Police Officer Bob Bonina, on patrol in the area reported a fire at the rear of the building. Captain James Diamond struck the box for a working fire en route based on Officer Bonina’s report and the number of calls Fire Alarm was receiving. Engine 1, Rescue 1 and Ladder 2 were dispatched from Fire Headquarters, along with Engine 2 out of the Pleasant Street Station.

Engine 2 station was the first truck on scene. Lieutenant Paul Zompetti reported that there was heavy, black acrid smoke and that the building’s fire sprinklers were operating. Lt. Zompetti called for the second alarm, bringing Marlborough’s Engine 3 and Ladder 1 from the Easterly Fire Station on Boston Post Road East. The first alarm assignment began attacking the fire. Chief John Kyle arrived on scene, took command and struck the third alarm. Engines 4 and 5, staffed by off duty personnel responded to the fire. In addition mutual aid from the towns of Northborough, Sudbury, Hudson and Framingham responded to cover the Marlborough’s empty stations. Framingham’s aerial platform was dispatched to the scene. The Department of Fire Services newest rig the Incident Rehab unit was requested to the scene, along with representatives of the State Fire Marshal’s office. State Fire Marshal Steve Coan also responded to the scene to offer the resources of the Department of Fire Services.

Conditions in the building deteriorated rapidly and the evacuation signal (a call on the radio and the 30 seconds of sounding of air horns on each rig on scene) was sounded. A head count was taken to ensure that all personnel were accounted for. The fire attack went from offensive to defensive mode. The fire burned through the roof, which was made up of rubber sheathing covered by tar and gravel.

Chief John Kyle stated “fire conditions worsened, and we knew we were going to be there a long time, and we approached the fire defensively at that point because of the heavy volumes of smoke and the danger of a possible collapse”.

The firefight continued well into the night and into the next day. A second successful attempt to bring hose lines into the structure was made about 4:00 AM, attacking the fire from an uninvolved area through some access doors. Just before sunrise, the fire made a defiant showing from the roof area, illuminating the fireground with an eerie glow despite the tens of thousands of gallons of water that was poured into the building.

The building was a meat cutting plant for the Stop and Shop supermarket chain in the early 1980s. Like the Worcester Cold Storage building that killed 6 firefighters, the portion of the building that the fire was in had a 6 to 8 inch layer of polystyrofoam insulation, which burns fiercely and is difficult to put out. The building, owned by Ram Management of Portland Maine was undergoing renovation.

Four Marlborough firefighters were injured fighting the fire. Three were transported to Marlborough Hospital, where they were treated and released. One was treated at the scene.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Marlborough Fire Department’s arson investigators and the State Fire Marshal’s office.