LOWELL | Cleanup efforts became a priority on Thursday, a day after a massive fire destroyed the former Rieter Automotive building.

Jimmy Harper, a project manager for BRT Indiana LLC, said crews were called to the property at 101 W. Oakley Ave. to properly dispose of potentially hazardous materials, such as oil.

"We're going to clean it up environmentally safe," Harper said.

Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball said no oil spilled into nearby ponds. Gorball said crews took air samples on Thursday. Other samples were expected to be taken Friday.

While some results may not be available until Friday, Gorball said he didn't expect public health risks in the area.

Gorball confirmed the large fire started while workers from BRT Indiana were cutting beams Wednesday to move equipment in the building.

He said residue from automotive insulation material ignited as they worked. The employees used four fire extinguishers in an attempt to extinguish flames.

"Obviously with no luck," Gorball said.

Harper and the 11 other workers in the facility escaped unharmed.

Gorball said some smoldering occurred Thursday at the site, but it was quickly extinguished by firefighters.

He also said town officials met with BRT Indiana employees Thursday to discuss upcoming cleanup work.

Large-scale environmental cleanup is expected to start Monday, Gorball said. State and town permits are needed before BRT Indiana can start the work.

Other cleanup efforts could continue Friday and Saturday, Gorball said.

Although the flames were gone, many people continued to gather outside of the property on Thursday to take pictures of the rubble.

Gorball said he had no estimates of the monetary amount of damage to the property, which is owned by WEL Companies Inc., a De Pere, Wis.-based firm.

An employee at WEL Companies referred questions to the company's owner, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, the employee said.

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