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Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

An excavator is used to knock down an exterior wall of 8 Manhattan Dr in Amherst, Saturday afternoon. The State Fire Marshal is investigating as to why two fires have broken out at the same place in the last week.
Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fire strikes plant twice

AMHERST – Larry Thibeault was watching the news Saturday morning when he heard a report of a fire in Amherst. The owner of Poly-Ject, a plastics injection molding firm, didn’t think much of it until he heard the address and then “I was out the door,” he said.

Thibeault was on his way to Manhattan Drive, where his 30-year-old company had suffered its second fire in three days.

Early Thursday morning, fire damaged a small section of the plant, about five by 15 feet, he estimated. But the fire Saturday destroyed a much larger part of the plastics company and the area used by Bread Chef, a commercial bakery.

Amherst firefighters were called back to Manhattan Drive at about 6:30 Saturday morning, with three engines, a tower truck and a tanker responding, and with aid from Milford, Merrimack, Hollis and Mont Vernon departments.

No one was injured in either fire, but damage to the building is now substantial, said Amherst Deputy Chief Matthew Conley, who said the cause of both is undetermined.

The brick industrial complex has a third business that was not damaged, Conley said, although it might have some smoke damage. Thibeault estimated that 6,000 out of the total 26,000 square feet is destroyed.

The fire Thursday was reported by night shift employees of Poly-Ject around 2 a.m., after they saw smoke coming into the production area from the Bread Chef portion.

On Saturday officials from the state fire marshal’s office and insurance adjustors roamed the periphery of the site while steam shovels were raising part of the building “for safety concerns and to get rid of lingering hot spots,” Conley said.

A Salvation Army truck provided refreshments for emergency workers.

Poly-Ject, owned by Thibeault and his son Steven, has been here for 30 years and moved into the current location in 1994, Thibeault said. Manhattan Drive is off Caldwell Drive and Poly-Ject is not far from Gymnastics Village.

Amherst and state fire officials will continue to investigate both fires.