A massive fire erupted at J&B International Truck Center in Colchester last Wednesday morning, temporarily closing a section of nearby Interstate 89.
Black smoke billowed from the building at 964 Hercules Dr. just after 10 a.m. November 28. All employees safely evacuated the building, and no injuries were reported, Colchester police Chief Doug Allen said.
The blaze started after a natural gas-powered truck began leaking, and nearby heating equipment in the shop ignited the fuel, according to a press release late Wednesday night from Colchester Center Volunteer Fire Company. The fire was ruled accidental.
The building and at least six vehicles were heavily damaged in the incident, police said.
The Colchester Dispatch Center received a call around 9:27 a.m. reporting a natural gas or propane odor in the building, Allen said. Less than a minute later, they received word that the building was aflame.
The blaze sent large, dark clouds of smoke high above the treeline separating the scene from the highway. Vermont State Police initially closed I-89 between Exits 15 and 16 due to visibility and other safety concerns. The lanes were reopened about an hour later.
“We were afraid that any kind of shift [of the wind] at all would make a blackout condition so state police chose to close it down,” Allen said.
As of 11:25 a.m. the fire was under control, according to Colchester police. Responders came from Burlington, Colchester, Essex Town, Essex Jct., Malletts Bay, Winooski, St. Michael’s College, Vermont Hazardous Materials Response Team, the Vermont Air National Guard and the American Red Cross.
According to Colchester police, at least six vehicles in the shop were heavily damaged or destroyed in the fire.
No other industrial park tenants had to evacuate since the wind carried the smoke in a southerly direction.
“We would have had a different situation [if the direction was different],” Allen said. “We may have had to close down Costco [and] some other businesses in the area.”
Allen was unsure of how many employees were in the building. He said employee training protocol helped with the smooth exit.
“My understanding is as soon as they knew they had a leak, they started their procedures,” Allen said. “When the fire happened, they were that much more ahead of the game with everyone out safe.”
Fire crews remained on the scene as of 3:45 p.m., last Wednesday.