Fire Destroys Bevin Bell Factory

East Hampton landmark goes up in flames.


Updated throughout at 4:30 a.m.


A landmark in East Hampton, the Bevin Bros. Manufacturing Company, went up in flames early Sunday morning.

Fire crews from surrounding towns responded with personnel, water and other equipment as the factory burned out of control causing the evacuation of surrounding homes.

"They currently have an evacuation going on vis-a-vis the nature of the fire is extensive," East Hampton Police Sgt. Tim Dowty said at the scene. "We're worried about the surrounding buildings. There's a possibility of the fire moving, especially if we get any wind. So, were opening the high school as a shelter and having people evacuated until the fire marshal says it is cool to come back."

Another concern is the nature of industrial materials stored in the building. Small explosions and one large one were heard, shooting embers into the air.

"It's an industrial setting, there's all types of hazmat materials in there," Dowty said. "In industry, there's going to be fuels, there's going to be lubricant, there's going to be all kinds of things up there. I can't comment as to exactly what is inside of that building."

Propane also was confirmed to be on the property.

"There are some propane tanks in the factory," said Steve Caron, Public Information Officer for Connecticut Region 3 Incident Management Team. "We don’t know the full extent."

As for other chemicals in the factory, Caron said: "Safety takes a high priority at all times. We don’t know exactly what the hazardous chemicals are at this point and time, but we’re trying to assess that.”

Caron said the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was on the scene.

The fire was first reported about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and evolved into a five-alarm blaze by 2:30 a.m.

"We have 25 to 30 fire departments that have responded and are presently trying to work and control the fire," Caron said.

No injuries have been reported.

East Hampton Public Works also was asked to assist.

"They're asking us to shuttle cots to the shelter and shuttle fuel to the fire trucks," Public Works Director Keith Hayden said.

Onlookers gathered trying to get a glimpse of the flames. At first there was some success at the top of the hill before fire and police forced people away. Others stood below on the Center School grounds watching as the smoke billowed upward.

Throughout the past 200 years, more than 30 bell makers flourished in East Hampton, hence the name Belltown. The Bevin family started the Bevin Brothers bell factory in 1832, according to its web site.

East Haddam, Haddam Neck, Middletown, Colchester, Glastonbury, Marlborough, Essex and other towns all responded to the blaze, with tankers lining Summitt Street and Bevin Boulevard waiting to provide water. Portland Fire Chief Robert Shea and other chiefs were at the scene.

At the high school, about 10 residents, and a couple of dogs, had shown up as of 2:30 a.m.

Steve Hall was one of them. Hall didn't seem to put out by the ordeal, but was concerned about getting to go back home in time because of plans he had made for Sunday.

"Going to Massachusetts to my friends," he said, adding, My car and all my stuff is at my house."

Caron said the cause of the fire was unknown and it was under investigation.


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Barbara May 27, 2012 at 12:14 PM
How sad this devastating fire is to the family and to the town. Thankfully, as far as I know, no one was injured. The response by our fire department, police department and EMT's was valiant, thank you to all of you. Unfortunately, had the State not made the Bevin's remove their dam, because it didn't meet their specifications, Bevin Pond would have still been there and an ample supply of water would have been readily available. Sometimes the state doesn't look at the big picture, the pond was there for a reason, other than a skating pond in the winter. What a terrible loss this is.
Elissa Bass May 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Posted on East Hampton-Portland Patch Facebook (www.facebook.com/EHamptonPortlandPatch): Beth Weinberger Hart: The last bell factory in our country is gone... I can remember driving past this place on numerous occasions with my husband and his mother on our way to "walls ice cream" over thirty years ago. Deb Sweeney It's a sad day for East Hampton-Losing our 200 year old Bell factory -
Tom Buchino May 27, 2012 at 02:30 PM
The people that ran the factory, are such nice people. They went out of their way to help me out, a total stranger, when I built the main st bridge a few years ago. My prayers go out to the family and employees. I really hope they can rebuild, and get working again soon Tom Buchino
Skeptic May 27, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Perhaps the firefighters were busy, like maybe, say, putting out a massive industrial fire. No one was in the building, the fire didn't spread to nearby homes and every firefighter made it home alive. Who cares who they interviewed?
ROBERT WATROUS May 30, 2012 at 06:55 PM
The loss is just staggering. The history that was vaporized over the weekend will never be replaceable, but I hope Matt Bevin can find a way to keep making bells in Belltown. Bob Watrous


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