Events of the Brewery Fire unfold Thursday night


UTICA - It was supposed to be the start of the 2008 Saranac Thursday season. But it took only minutes for the annual event to take a frantic turn.

It was shortly after 5 p.m. that the call came in that a fire had broken out in the canning and packing area of the brewery. Fire officials believe the fire began in the hi-clone machine, which they say puts plastic on the cans.

The premises were evacuated as were residents in the surrounding areas, due to smoke and fumes that officials say could be toxic. That smoke permeated the air as far as East Utica throughout the night, and city residents were told by officials that it was best to remain indoors.

By the end of Thursday night, fire crews had managed to get about half of the fire under control and were still working on the other half, gaining control over the fire by early Friday morning.

"This building is extensively damaged, but our goal is to prevent it from getting to the other buildings," Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks said Thursday evening.

By the end of the night, fire officials said they had only two reported injuries, and that was of two brewery employees, who were brought to St. Elizabeth Medical Center for smoke inhalation. Chief Brooks called the fact that those numbers were not higher "encouraging."

And the vice-president of the company was keeping a bright eye toward the future, even in the face of adversity.

"We will rebuild," said vice-president Fred Matt. "We've been in business 120 years. We went through prohibition when we couldn't produce beer, and we will be a force to be reckoned with as we go forward."

Fire officials said they wouldn't know how much of an impact the fire would have on future business, until they have more time to assess the full extent of the damage.

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