Hundreds without jobs after raging inferno reduces casket company to pile of rubble

BOSTON (WHDH) - Hundreds of people are without jobs after a decades-old casket company in East Boston was reduced to a charred pile of rubble by a raging nine-alarm blaze that broke out on Friday.

The chemical-fueled blaze sent a thick, black toxic cloud over the Orient Heights neighborhood. It took over 120 firefighters more than eight hours to douse the blaze that began around 3 p.m. near a wood-drying furnace, according to Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn.

Those who were employed by New England Casket Company showed up Monday to get a glimpse of the devastating aftermath.

“It was a great place,” Ronald Jimenez said of his former workplace. “There were great people, too.”

Company owner Lou Tobia says the future of his business hinges on three options.

“We either try to rebuild here on site, try to rebuild somewhere else and purchase a building or just fold up,” he said.

Site in East Boston where New England Casket Company once stood

The blaze erupted just above the factory’s sprinkler system, which led to the collapse of all three buildings on the site.

Tobia says many of his employees will likely struggle with finding work.

“So many of them worked for us for so long. Many, many years,” he said. “It’s going to be hard I would imagine for all of us to find something else.”

As the fire grew, nearby residents were ordered out of their homes and the Blue line was forced to suspend service.

Crews worked around-the-clock through the weekend to clear the rubble and the MBTA worked to drain water from the Orient Heights train yard so the subway line would be functional for the Monday commute.

Tobia, along with other company officials, have plans to meet with employees later this week to discuss future options.

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