Crews respond to fire at New Bedford portable toilet business

(Tim Garcia/WPRI)

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) – Firefighters battled a major three-alarm fire in New Bedford Sunday afternoon. The smoke was visible from various parts of the city and surrounding areas, including I-195.

The fire was reported around 2 p.m. at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Caroline Streets. Eyewitness News has learned the fire began in a building owned by Hallman’s, a septic and portable toilets business. Inside the burning warehouse were multiple portable toilets. An adjacent building, also owned by Hallman’s, was warped by the heat.

New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes told Eyewitness News the fiberglass and plastic that comprise the portable toilets are highly flammable materials.

“The fire had a good head start on arrival,” he said.

Gomes said the building appeared unoccupied when they arrived, and he doesn’t believe anyone was hurt.

“It got up into the roof structure and we’re still attempting to complete the extinguishment,” Gomes said Sunday afternoon. Firefighters attacked the two-story, 5,000-square-foot building from the outside.

Smoke from the fire extended over parts of 195, and highway signs warned drivers of decreased visibility in the area. Dozens of neighbors spilled into the streets to watch crews battle the smoky fire.

Gomes said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but it doesn’t appear there was a “natural reason” for the fire to occur.

He said fire crews were dealing with water pressure issues and the engine that would have first responded to the scene was closed for budgetary reasons. Gomes said it’s unclear if the response from that unit would have made any difference in Sunday’s fire.