A fire that apparently started in a furnace and got out of control gutted the New England Casket Co. factory in East Boston, leaving the future uncertain for the company.

The family-owned company had been in business for three generations and over 80 years when fire broke out in the plant Friday night, March 15, according to Boston Fire Department officials. They described the plant after the fire as “just a shell, completely gutted.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called it the “biggest fire that I’ve seen as mayor of the city.”

Boston Fire Department tweeted before-and-after photos of the front of the building showing flames bursting out of the front door while the fire was blazing and blue sky clearly visible through the same doorway after the fire was put out.

Not much is left in this aerial photo provided by the Boston Fire Department, showing the aftermath of a 9-alarm fire at New England Casket Co. in East Boston.

Lou Tobia Jr., who with is father Lou Tobia Sr., currently operates the company, told news media that the fire apparently started in a furnace in the room where caskets dry after finishing. He said the fire began above the sprinklers and spread before the sprinkler system could douse it.

The fire reached nine alarms and forced evacuation of nearby residents before it was put out. A nearby train station was flooded from the firefighting effort.

Longtime employee Rina Galdamc told CBS News she was working inside at the time of the fire. On Saturday, she returned to get her car which was damaged. “God bless – everyone is okay,” Galdamc said. “The owner is very nice. I worked for a lot of years there. This is everything.”

Surveying the damage on March 16, Tobia Jr. told local media, “We have an emergency action plan. It worked like clockwork. Everyone got out so quick. It started so small, it’s just shocking it turned into what we’re seeing.”

His father, Tobia Sr., said “It’s heartbreaking. But you can’t bury your head in the sand. You have to deal with it.”

Although their initial reaction was that the plant was a total loss, they said it was too early to determine future plans for the business, which had been honored by industry for its manufacturing innovations.

 

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