PITTSFIELD - A four-alarm fire at the Rustic Crust pizza and dough production facility on Thursday destroyed the building, and the company is already working to set up a new shop.
At the building on Barnstead Road, nearly 100 employees cover three shifts making pizza dough and American Flatbread pizzas ,which are sold by both grocery chains and mom-and-pop outfits throughout the country, said plant manager Brian Schneider.
At approximately 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, fire broke out near one of the ovens, said Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Martin. About 25 people were working the third shift when the fire started, but all were able to safely exit the building.
When the first firefighters arrived, fire was shooting from the roof at the front of the building and smoke pouring out of the back, said Martin. Four alarms were quickly sounded, and fire departments from nearly 20 area communities responded.
"We attempted to make an attack on the fire, but we couldn't make it past the door," said Martin. "So we went into defensive mode."
It wasn't long before firefighters ran out of water from the hydrants and had to begin shuttling in water from a nearby river.
"We used almost a million gallons of water just from the hydrant," said Martin. "It was depleted, so we had to shuttle water."
As firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze and keep it from attacking the auto repair shop next door, their second-biggest challenge was the sub-zero temperatures.
"All of our equipment froze," said Martin. "The trucks, the hoses. Everything was frozen."
One firefighter injured his arm when he slipped on the ice, but wasn't seriously hurt.
By morning, an excavator was brought in to shift the rubble from the building so firefighters could get at the flames under the wreckage.
"It was the only way we could get at it and wet everything down," Martin said.
Next door at Any Make Auto, LLC, owner Daryl Klitz said he wasn't thrilled that he couldn't open his shop on Friday, but he said he was grateful to firefighters for saving his building.
"The fire was so hot it cracked the hood on my ramp truck," Klitz said. "But you could tell the firefighters were trying to save my business because there's ice and water all along that side of the building."
By early Friday morning, said Schneider, the company was already seeking a new location to set up shop so it could keep up with customer orders.
"Our focus is to get the company back up and running," he said. "But the most important thing is that nobody got hurt."