4-alarm fire ravages Strathmore Mill building in Russell

People are being advised to avoid part of Russell while crews work to put out a structure fire.
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 5:12 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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RUSSELL, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A four-alarm fire has torn through two mill buildings on Woronoco Road in Russell.

Multiple fires at the vacant Strathmore buildings over the last several years prompted the State Fire Marshal’s office to offer a reward back in 2020.

Fire officials told Western Mass News that they expect to be here until sunrise Wednesday, working to put out the fire and hot spots on the building which has completely collapsed.

Witnesses who were staying in a house close by told us that they were forced to evacuate.

“We just got us and the pets,” said Jaynice Alvarado. “That’s all we could get. They kept telling us to get out.”

Flames engulfed multiple buildings at the Strathmore Mills in Russell on Tuesday. One witness said the fire seemed to come out of nowhere.

“The baby was sleeping and we were eating dinner, and then I went to the backyard and I’m like, ‘It’s really smokey,’ and I didn’t understand why,” Alvarado recalled. “And I looked at the factory and I was like, ‘That’s too much smoke!’ and I ran to my stepmom and I’m like, “I don’t know what’s going on, but the sky is yellow. It looks so gray.’”

Some of that smoke could be seen from the Mass. Pike near Westfield.

“Crews arrived, found heavy fire on all four floors, starting to go through the roof,” said Blandford Fire Chief David Mottor.

Russell fire damage 072622
Russell fire damage 072622(Western Mass News photo)

He told Western Mass News that crews were called to the scene shortly after 4:30 p.m. The fire started in Mill #3 in the Woronoco section of town but eventually spread across the street to Mill #1.

Our crews noticed that mutual aid was called in from more than a dozen fire departments across western Massachusetts, as well as Westover Air Reserve Base.

Chief Mottor said that one of the biggest challenges they faced was the limited water supply in the area.

“There’s domestic water here, but it’s not adequate for fire-fighting,” he explained. “Currently, they’re filling up the trucks in Westfield, through the generosity of the city of Westfield, allowing us to get water from there.”

Our cameras captured tankers traveling back and forth for several hours as crews worked to spray down the flames and smoke. Chief Mottor said they are keeping crews out of both buildings due to the collapse danger, and currently, no injuries have been reported.

Meanwhile, Alvarado said Eversource was there and had to shut off their power. She just hopes things calm down soon.

“We’re hot, thirsty, waiting,” she said.

Tese mills are a hot spot for fires. At least four took place at another building in the last few years, all deemed suspicious.

The State Fire Marshal’s office is still working to determine the cause of this fire, which Chief Mottor said could take about a week. However, we were told by neighbors that they saw some people here doing work on the building Tuesday.

Chief Mottor also told Western Mass News that they are waiting for an excavator to come and tear down the bridge connecting two of the buildings as it is not structurally sound. They fear that if it comes down, it could take the front of the other undamaged building with it.