Middletown firefighters battled a large fire at the vacant former Middletown Paperboard building on New Year’s Day.
The fire was reported just before 6:40 a.m. in the area of Girard Avenue and Verity Parkway. A Middletown firefighter was driving to duty when he noticed smoke and was flagged down by someone on a bike to report the fire.
A large plume of smoke was pouring from the building and large flames were visible, said Middletown fire Chief Paul Lolli. Portions of Verity Parkway have been closed because of debris falling into the roadway, officials said.
Crews originally believed the fire was mostly under control by late morning, but firefighters had to renew efforts when more flames and heavy smoke began coming from the building in the early afternoon. There were between 70 ad 90 firefighters on the scene, officials said.
Smoke from the fire was visible from miles away, and witnesses said they could feel the heat from the flames standing across the street.
“I’d say we’ll be here the rest of the week,” Lolli said.
The building is “frequented” by homeless people, Lolli said.
“We have some water pressure issues which is causing us to have a little bit of trouble to get a lot of water on the fire,” Lolli said. “Right now we’re just trying to keep it from spreading to the unburnt parts of the structure.”
It is the second major fire at the building in less than two years. On Feb. 2, 2018, neighbors called 911 about 11:30 p.m. reporting heavy smoke and flames coming from the facility.
Firefighters were at the scene at least 12 hours at a vacant warehouse area of the former business, with crews remaining to douse smoldering areas.
The building has been empty for decades, officials said at the time.
Neighbors noticed a sport utility vehicle parked near the building, they said. They said the abandoned building was a popular gathering spot for teens and sometimes was entered by others. There was graffiti visible on some of the walls.