It took over eight hours for emergency crews to put out a structure fire that broke out on Broad Street in East Utica Friday morning.
“First crews arrived on scene and found heavy fire coming from the exterior of the building,” said Chief John Kelly of the Utica Fire Department.
Kelly said three employees of Pacemaker Steel and Piping were inside of the building when the fire began, but were able to escape without injuries. And while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Kelly said they do know of one factor that kept it going.
“It was determined that it was a natural gas leak that was feeding the fire,” Kelly said.
As a result of the leak, fire crews purposefully kept the fire lit as a safety tactic.
“We let the fire burn because if we shut it off, the natural gas will just pool and it will ignite in other areas,” Kelly said.
In the meantime, neighboring businesses were left without power. Some halted normal operations.
“So we lost two full shifts today. Hopefully we’ll be working the weekend to make that up,” said Cathy Thiaville, CEO of Metal Solutions.
Thiaville said Pacemaker has been a vendor to the company since the 50’s. And although her business was at a loss today as well, it’s her neighbors she’s worried about.
“Very concerned about them and hopefully everything is okay and they’re able to operate,” Thiaville said.
A hard thing to tell as of now, as fire officials said they will be working into the night, and the Pacemaker building has been significantly damaged.
“Because of the frozen ground and the conditions of the weather, it’s very difficult for them so it does take some time,” Kelly said.
Investigators said around seven houses are still left without natural gas but most of the power in the area has been restored.