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Fire Erupts at Lajoies Auto Wrecking in Norwalk

This story was updated at 12:01 p.m. March 29

NORWALK, Conn. - A "bigger than usual" fire at Lajoies Auto Wrecking and Scrap Recycling on Wednesday afternoon sent smoke billowing in the air over South Norwalk and caused heavy damage at the junkyard. The business's shredder machine and control room were destroyed, according to Norwalk Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Prescott. No injuries were reported in the blaze, which began just before 2 p.m.

"All of a sudden we started seeing smoke," said Marcos Pedroza of Pedroza Auto Glass on Meadow Street , a neighboring business. "It was seconds, real quick."

Minor fires occur at Lajoies fairly often, neighbors said. But Sammy Vasquez, a worker at the nearby C & S Grocery, said this fire was much worse than usual.

The flames were higher than Lajoies' smokestack, Pedroza said, and he saw the shredder burning. "It looks like the big giant trailer next to it burned down," he said. "You could see the aluminum melting from the heat, that's how hot it was."

Pedroza said he didn't hear any explosions before the fire, which he thought was unusual. There were little poofs from minor explosions as it burned, which turned the smoke black.

"I don't think anybody was hurt," he said. "You could hear the guys scrambling inside, leaving, telling everybody to get back."

Prescott said every firefighter in Norwalk worked on the blaze, and a Stamford fire engine arrived for backup. Most of the work was getting water to men using two ladder trucks. Firefighters ran hoses from three hydrants.

Lajoies' oil separator was involved in the fire, and Prescott said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were on the scene at 4 p.m. to ensure that water runoff did not have oil in it. They vacuumed drains and will return Thursday to check again. "At this point, they're monitoring it," he said.

No one had been evacuated away from the smoke, Prescott said, which headed toward Wilson Avenue and Village Creek. Some South Norwalk residents expressed concern.  Diane Lauricella, an environmental consultant, agreed. She wondered whether the city would do air quality monitoring, yet thought the fire might be an opportunity.

"We haven’t see our city take an interest in the aftermath of these fires," she said. "I’m hoping this is an opportunity to sit down and review this company’s compliance history and help them do a better job."

Lauricella is a member of Norwalk Neighbors for Environmental Justice, an ad hoc committee focused on waste management and City Carting. Lajoies was next on its list.

“We don’t want to put them out of business,” she said. “Our purpose is to get them to be better neighbors. Maybe this is an opportunity, get them to clean up their act.”

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