An East Boston neighborhood was forced to evacuate Friday afternoon after a fire enveloped a local casket company and quickly evolved into a gigantic, nine-alarm blaze.
The fire was reported at about 3:30 p.m. at the New England Casket Co. on Bennington Street. Thick, black smoke from what was a three-alarm fire continued to billow into the nearby Orient Heights neighborhood more than three hours later, prompting the fire commissioner to evacuate the area and sounding nine alarms.
Fire officials said the casket company was at the end of several water lines, and weak water pressure impeded their ability to battle the flames, the Boston Globe reported. A local metro line was also closed because of the fire.
In all, the department said, more than 200 firefighters spanning multiple agencies were called to the scene. Fire Commissioner Joe Finn told reporters the flames had caused “millions and millions” in damages, according to the Globe.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the fire was one of the largest he’d seen during his time in office. “I’m just grateful no one is hurt,” he said.
Finn said the Orient Heights neighborhood was evacuated out of an “abundance of caution.” Lacquers used to finish the caskets tainted the air with chemicals, Finn said, though officials determined that the air quality was within an acceptable range overall.
Reporters and people in the area captured some of the ominous images of the flames and smoke on social media.
“The casket company is a fixture in the neighborhood. It’s been around for 60+ years. It’s so sad that it’s a total loss,” one East Boston resident wrote on Instagram.
Firefighters continued to battle the blaze at 10 p.m. Friday. “We have a long night ahead,” the department tweeted.