PEPPERELL -- A blaze reaching at least eight alarms Friday afternoon left the main building at R. H. Willson's auto salvage yard "a complete loss," according to the town administrator.
The fire at R. H. Willson's, at 44 North St., was called in at around 12:10 p.m., Town Administrator Andrew MacLean said at a press conference Friday evening. It was under control by around 4 p.m., but MacLean said firefighters remained on scene.
"We know that the cause was that it ignited with a worker trying to cut something off a car or weld something on a car. I'm not sure what he was doing specifically," MacLean said. "But in the course of his work, the fire started."
Seventeen companies from around the region responded to the fire, mostly from North Middlesex as well as some from Souhegan and Southern New Hampshire, MacLean said. Having no water on the site was the biggest challenge in extinguishing the fire, he said.
"By the time they were there and knew what they had in front of them, they were out of water in their own pumper," he said. "The nearest hydrant was a half a mile away, so then they had to bring in reel hoses, and to stage all that takes quite a while."
One worker at the business was transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure and had already been released, MacLean said.
According to the R. H. Willson website, the company has been in business since 1954.
The property was evacuated, but the neighborhood was not. MacLean said the business is in a wooded area, far enough away not to endanger homes.
"With all the fumes and different things out there, the firefighters will get decontaminated before they go back to their normal lives," MacLean said. "Their suits will be thoroughly cleaned."
Firefighters planned to remain on scene well into the evening, checking for hot spots, MacLean said.
"They want to make sure it's completely out before anybody leaves," he said. "They don't want to take the chance of a re-ignition."
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