Lightning Strike Ignites Botsford Industrial Ruins
Botsford, Sandy Hook, and Hook & Ladder volunteer firefighters responded during a thunderstorm at about 4:01 pm on Monday, August 19, to a fire that was reported to be in the vicinity of Interstate & Lakeland Lumber at 46 Swamp Road in Botsford and found the blaze to be located nearby, amid the industrial ruins of the former Batchelder aluminum smelting plant at 46-A Swamp Road.
Deputy Fire Marshal Steve Murphy said his investigation into the cause of the blaze determined that a lightning strike likely caused a deteriorated wooden shed there to ignite and burn. There were no injuries in the incident.
The property has no electric service, and there was no evidence of a fire having been set, resulting in a lightning strike being the likely cause of the fire, he said.
The 30-acre property, which is owned by the town, is designated as a “brownfield,” or former industrial property, which would need extensive cleanup of toxic waste to be used again for some purpose.
Botsford Fire Rescue Company First Assistant Chief Pete Blomberg said that when he arrived on the scene, an about 450-square-foot wooden roof was engulfed in flames.
Firefighters used about 3,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze. Considering that the site holds industrial ruins, which make it especially difficult to fight fires, firefighters wanted to be sure that they would not have to return to the hazardous property to put out any fire that might rekindle, he noted.
“We were working under pretty hazardous conditions... We had to make sure it was out,” he said. “We knocked it [the fire] down pretty quick,” he added.
Even getting to the fire itself proved difficult, with firefighters needing to cut back overgrown brush that obstructed deteriorated driveways on the property.
About ten firefighters responded to the call, which lasted approximately 90 minutes.
The former industrial site is considered a hazardous location due to its deteriorated steel buildings, extensive debris, and toxic waste piles. The firm that formerly operated the graffiti-strewn facility went out of business. Over the years, the town has considered putting the property to some new use, such as a solar/electric energy site, providing that funds become available for a cleanup project and new construction.