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Fire: Public Works Building 'A Total Loss,' Commissioner Says

While investigators are working to piece together the cause of an intense fire that tore apart Public Works’ heavy equipment building in Subbase Sunday, officials said they also have to determine what was lost in the blaze and how much it’s going to cost to replace it.

Commenting during a press conference Sunday afternoon, Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls called the building a "total loss," with damages including several "key" pieces of equipment the department used regularly. The building is where Public Works routinely repairs its vehicles, and contained gasoline, propane and other chemicals needed for the equipment, he explained.

"This will obviously hamper us initially, but we will regroup," he said, adding that representatives from Property and Procurement showed up at the scene later Sunday to make sure notice got out to the department’s insurance company and adjusters.

Sharing the building with Public Works is the Waste Management Authority, whose chief operating officer Steve Aubin said Sunday that the agency’s machine shop and equipment area were also "totally destroyed."

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"But we are going to go ahead and regroup, purchase new equipment and work hand in hand with the other agencies to get things back together," Aubin added.

The fire started at approximately 8:50 a.m. Sunday and was put out around 1 p.m., said Assistant Fire Services Director Daryl George. Units from three local fire companies brought 42 firefighters, who worked along with responders from Planning and Natural Resources, Waste Management Authority, V.I. Water and Power Authority, V.I. Port Authority and V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, to get the fire under control, he said.

U.S. Coast Guard responders also worked to contain any oil and hydraulic fluid that spilled from the warehouse after the fire started. They placed buoys in a nearby drainage trench to keep the spill from getting to the shoreline, according to a VITEMA release.

Smalls said later that the agencies’ ability to work together quickly was what helped to keep the blaze from hurting anyone or spreading to other buildings in the area.

Meanwhile, the road running in front of Island Laundry down to WAPA is closed until the cleanup process is finished, Smalls added.

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