Sunday, August 5, 2018

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Disaster averted at Unilock


Brewster 1st Assistant Fire Chief Michael Bizzaro explains to Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell how
dangerous the situation could have been at Unilock while Commissioner of Emergency Services Ken Clair (center)
and 2nd Assistant Chief Tom Giambattisto look inside the heavily damaged building. (Photo: Mel Skelton)

BREWSTER – The weight of tons of water that forced a roof to collapse and blow out a front wall of the Unilock Corporation headquarters and plant in Southeast early Saturday is being credited with averting a potential major calamity.

Brewster Fire Department personnel were summoned around 8:30 a.m. to the sprawling building at 51 International Boulevard that houses a manufacturer of concrete interlocking paving stones and segmental wall products for a report of a roof collapse and possible explosion.

First Assistant Chief Michael Bizzaro arrived minutes later and confirmed the structural damage quickly ordering responding equipment to turn off their two-way radios since a strong smell of natural gas was evident.

The chief ordered the natural gas line be shuttered immediately and upon entering the building discovered that the excessive weight of the water in one corner of the flat roof caused the collapse dislodging interior structural beams that came through the side concrete wall.

The collapse also resulted in the rupture of a gas main.

Steel beams were twisted like pretzels due to the roof collapse.

Chief Bizzaro added that a “calamity was averted. Had this occurred and gone undetected until Monday morning when the plant normally opened for business, the building would have filled up with the natural gas and we very well might have had another Bum Steer Restaurant nightmare on our hands.”

The chief was referring to the former Fox Ridge Motel that was constructed in the 1960's. The popular restaurant was added in 1972 which suffered a catastrophic loss in July 1995 when a gas explosion destroyed the facility.

The Fox Ridge-Bum Steer complex suffered its tragic demise when a thunderous explosion demolished the restaurant and bar as employees were preparing for the dinnertime rush. Two people were killed and five others injured when the blast leveled the facility that was caused by a buildup of methane gas.

Commissioner of Emergency Services Kenneth Clair was also on the scene along with County Executive MaryEllen Odell.

Clair said the “massive amounts of rain the county experienced within a 48 hour period attributed to the collapse. The power of water seeks its easiest access. In this case it found a weakened section of the roof forcing it to collapse and blow out the foundation wall before severing a natural gas line.”

Odell praised the firefighters for their rapid response. “Thanks goodness this was discovered when it was. The situation could have been so much more tragic.”

No injuries were reported. Emergency crews returned to quarters five hours after the initial alarm.

Assisting at the scene were Putnam Battalion 12 Coordinator Ron Davies, Southeast Building Inspector Joe Hernandez and a representative of the Putnam Bureau of Emergency Services.



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