Firefighters from across Union County continued to battle a massive five-alarm fire at the catering business in downtown Westfield late Sunday afternoon. The fire was reportedly brought under control by about 6:45 p.m.
An hour earlier, flames continued to shoot through the top of the building and a roof collapse was reported. The blaze destroyed at least six local businesses and a restaurant.
At about 5:45 p.m., heavy smoke continued to pour out of the catering company's building at 439 South Avenue West and flames could be seen from the roof of the structure as firefighters continued to douse the blaze. The cause of the fire is unknown but initial reports indicated that the fire may have begun in the loft area of the building. When contacted, the Westfield Fire Department still could not officially pinpoint the exact origin or cause of the blaze.
Fire departments from across the region responded to the call in Westfield. Ladder trucks and hoselines were out in full force to combat the blaze late Sunday afternoon. Fire Departments from Elizabeth, Cranford, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Roselle, Roselle Park, Mountainside, New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Garwood provided mutual aid as emergency workers struggld to bring the blaze under control.
As firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, a stretch of South Ave West was closed from the traffic circle up to the Westfield Train Station. At 5:35 p.m., the street closures remained in effect.
Clyne & Murphy is located near a cleaners on the corner of South Avenue West and Westfield Avenue. Residents who stood a block away, watching the scene unfold, said approximately 25 years ago, a business called Roots was housed in what is now Clyne & Murphy. The corner structure also houses a shoe repair shop and the Sound Station record/CD store, among other businesses. Smoke from the fire spread through nearby neighborhoods and could be seen for at least a mile.
Armed with cameras, Joan Brennan, the wife of Westfield Fire Lt. Tim Brennan, watched with her children as her husband and other emergency workers worked to extinguish the fire.
"You never really get used to it, because we don't get that many (large fires) in town," Brennan said. "You really get the sense of the enormity of the situation when you see how many people are here."
Brennan said what makes it even more difficult is knowing that homes or businesses are being damaged because local firefighters - due to safety regulations - are often forced to wait for mutual aid before they can enter a building. She believes that if the department had more manpower, such delays wouldn't be an issue.
This is the first major fire in Westfield of 2012. Last year, the six-alarm 's fire occurred in May and the Italian restaurant is still in the process of rebuilding.