WAYLAND, MASS. (WHDH) - A Wayland business complex became an inferno Tuesday afternoon after a large fire broke out, spreading to a parked car and setting off multiple explosions.
The fire sent a cloud of oppressive, chemical-filled smoke over the area before sunset on Tuesday. Hours later, firefighters were still on scene around 9 p.m., spraying down hotspots and assessing damage.
Everyone inside the complex was able to get to safety on their own, according to Wayland fire officials. One firefighter suffered a leg injury after tripping over a fire hose.
Wayland’s fire chief said the fire started shortly before 4 p.m. in an auto body shop bordered by a restaurant and a dry cleaning facility.
SKY7-HD flying over the scene soon captured video of the fire as firefighters sprayed water from multiple angles shortly after 4 p.m.
Within 45 minutes, much of the auto body shop had collapsed.
Fire Chief Neil McPherson said crews arrived on scene less than a minute after the fire was reported. Despite the rapid response, McPherson said there was already heavy smoke and flames billowing from the back of the auto body shop when firefighters arrived.
McPherson said crews had to contend with multiple sparking utility lines and a transformer that exploded. Ultimately, the chief said, crews cut power to the area.
The Wayland Fire Department in a statement said fire officials made the decision to take a defensive approach to their fire response, fighting the fire from positions outside the building “due to multiple explosions inside the building.”
McPherson credited firewalls on either side of the auto body shop with helping prevent the fire from spreading to the rest of the building.
“We think it’s going to be largely contained to that area,” he said of the auto body shop.
Still, McPherson said crews would check other sections of the structure.
McPherson continued, saying “our concern becomes the structural integrity of the building given the heat.”
With crews still on scene Tuesday evening, witnesses described the initial fire response.
Jeff Horan said he had been on his back porch when he started to smell what he thought was a fire. He said he walked to get a better view and saw smoke.
Horan said he then rushed to talk to workers at the auto body shop who told him to call 911.
“It just accelerated from there,” Horan said of the fire. “It just took off like a wildfire.”
Horan said he heard “a lot of explosions.”
Oliver Ahearne, who lives nearby, said the fire was “really scary for a lot of people in the neighborhood.”
While the cause of the fire remained unknown as of Tuesday night, its impact was already being felt.
“It’s an unfortunate loss,” Horan said. “This is Main Street Wayland, Cochituate Village. Everyone comes to these businesses, so we’re going to miss this.”
The Wayland Fire Department in its statement Tuesday night said firefighters from seven area communities responded to the scene to provide mutual aid during this fire response. Firefighters from three other communities covered Wayland fire stations.
The fire department said the fire was brought under control around 7 p.m. and said the fire’s cause remained under investigation.
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