WORCESTER — A busy night for firefighters — beginning with a string of trash bin fires — culminated with a three-alarm blaze that destroyed a Sunderland Road farm building.
The fire, reported at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, destroyed Gibson’s Dairy Farm’s warehouse and distribution building at 50 Sunderland Road, and damaged three delivery trucks.
District Chief John J. Horan said the building was 50 to 60 percent ablaze when firefighters arrived. Firefighters who entered the building to attack the flames were soon told to evacuate.
“It was already coming through the roof,” Horan said. “It was too much fire to go into the building and the roof was already collapsing — so it was defensive only.”
Firefighters used two aerial ladders to spray water on the fire from above while others battled it from the sides. Horan said it took about 20 to 30 minutes for firefighters to bring the fire under control. He said adjacent buildings were at risk and firefighters focused on keeping the fire from spreading to those structures.
The 5,000-square-foot warehouse is behind Gibby’s Famous Ice Cream at 42 Sunderland Road, also owned by the Gibson family. The ice cream stand will be closed today, but the family hopes to reopen by Thursday.
In the fire, a fire lieutenant injured his foot and was taken by ambulance to UMass Memorial Medical Center for treatment. No other injuries were reported.
Fire investigators are at the scene this morning.
Horan said that before the dairy warehouse fire the fire department had been busy at Dumpster fires at businesses in the area of Millbury and Granite streets. Those businesses included Standard Auto Wrecking, Audette’s Auto Body and Amorello’s. He said that at the fire at Amorello’s, firefighters discovered the building had been broken into.
Horan said he could not say whether the fire at the dairy was related to the earlier Dumpster fires. He said the fires were under investigation.
Francis Gibson said Tuesday night wasn’t the first time his family’s dairy business has been struck by fire.
His grandparents started the business in 1923, he said, and a boiler explosion in 1930 destroyed the business when it was located near the airport. He said the family reopened on East Central Street, where Derrico’s Market is now, and stayed there until moving the business in the 1940s to its current home on Sunderland Road.
He said if his grandparents could get the business running again during the Great Depression, his family should be able to rebuild, as well.
“We’ll continue on—we just have to figure out a different way,” he said early this morning, standing near the building as firefighters continued extinguishing the flames.
He said he currently contracts for milk with two farms, one in Dracut and the other in New Hampshire, and thanks to two of his delivery drivers who take their trucks home, two of his five delivery vehicles were spared.
Mr. Gibson said nothing in the building was salvageable, and he lamented the loss of old photos and other irreplaceable heirlooms kept in his office.
He said he was grateful no lives were lost in the fire. At first he thought his daughter Sarah’s rabbit died, but it turned up later hiding in an office.
“That was the one bright spot,” Mr. Gibson said.
Mr. Gibson last night had one message for his milk delivery customers who might hear about the fire today.
“We will be out there delivering,” he said.