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.