It's burning today, the first started last night! --- It will probably be lost...
TAUNTON - More than 100 firefighters battled a raging fire well after midnight with flames shooting 30 feet above a three-story building at the Taunton State Hospital campus that forced the evacuation of 60 children.
Flames were still visible just before midnight with firefighters struggling all night with pleas for added water.
Though no one was believed to trapped inside, if by chance this was the case, Taunton firefighter Mark Chassey responded, "If there is, it's too late."
Fire Chief Joseph Rose, echoed the sentiment of numerous firefighters with the continuing refrain, "There's no water" adding, "I'm doing the best I can."
There's was also a fear just after midnight this morning the raging fire could spread through underground tunnels that connect the buildings on the 54-acre campus.
Every fire department in Bristol County - with at least 20 engines and seven ladders - responded to the mutual aid call just before 8 p.m. The cause of the fire was not known.
Rose hoped only to stop the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings.
"This is going to burn all night," Rose said, standing across from the building. The flames could be seen for more than a mile throughout downtown Taunton with more than a hundred nearby residents coming out of their homes to see what was happening.
Firefighters had to break through a security fence to reach the 150-year-old "Center" building that had been abandoned for 30 years, but were trying to keep flames from reaching the neighboring Howland Building that houses troubled youth. Police Lt. Edward Walsh said the children were sent to other buildings.
The Center building was the original hospital completed in 1853, after overcrowding at a state hospital in Worcester required the new facility here.
Mayor Robert G. Nunes said about 60 people were evacuated from the adjacent Howland building, where troubled youth are cared for. Extra staff for the hospital were called to the scene to keep order with the 187 residents.
Rose activated a task force that required every available firefighter in the county to the scene. He expected to be fighting the fire until 6 p.m. tonight.
The burning building, formerly used for administration offices, was believed to be unoccupied. Rose said it was too early to know how the fire began.
Firefighters worked with a limited amount of water, which was pumped in from nearby Danforth Street. Engines full of water were sent to the scene to help.
"There's no water. I'm doing the best I can," explained Rose, as ash rained down, setting small grass fires off near the base of the building.
Upwards of 50 people watched the fire from the Taunton State Hospital grounds before being ordered out by state police. As many as 100 people watched the fire from Danforth Street.
"It's unbelievable," said Michael Gibbons, who watched the blaze from the street. "It's a historic structure, kind of a characteristic of the town. It's a segment of Taunton's history."
State. Rep. James Fagan echoed those comments, calling the blaze a "tragedy."
"The damage to this just significant historical building is just a terrible, terrible thing, but you know what? The bottom line is our people are safe, our staff is safe," Fagan said.
Booms of fire trucks were extended to spray water down on the building, but the flames showed no sign of subsiding.
Rose said his goal was to stop the fire from spreading.
He had no hope of saving the building, which was designed by architect Elbridge Boyden.
The building, built in 1854, has been abandoned for a number of years. Police and firefighters at the scene said it was last occupied when repairs were made to the roof.
Edited by Roxie Z, 20 March 2006 - 09:57 AM.