180-year-old Conn. bell factory destroyed by fire

One of the oldest continuously operating factories in Connecticut that made bells was destroyed in a late Saturday night fire.

Little remains of the factory of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co., which says it's the only remaining company manufacturing just bells in the United States.

The company, which dates its East Hampton bell manufacturing to 1832, makes sleigh, hand, house, cow, sheep, door and ship's bells. The company says it has made as many as 20 sizes of sleigh bells and made the first bicycle bells.

Its products were featured in Hollywood's Christmas classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," and at football games and ski races.

"This is a tremendous loss for us as well as the country," Councilwoman Susan Weintraub told The Hartford Courant. "This is a tremendous loss for our community now and in the future."

Bevin Brothers was the last of a once-thriving industry that earned East Hampton the nickname, "Belltown, USA."

The Courant reports (http://cour.at/KV1ZQx ) that the Connecticut Region 3 Incident Management Team said propane tanks in the six-story factory caught fire and exploded, helping spread the blaze.

Residents in the immediate area were evacuated late Saturday night and power was cut.

By about noon Sunday the fire was still smoldering and firefighters were working to put out hot spots, East Hampton Fire Chief Paul Owen said. No one was injured.

An alert was sent to residents within a two-mile radius on Sunday, warning them to stay inside their homes.

The East Hampton public health office listed several chemicals in the building. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection dispatched a hazardous materials team to the site, taking air samples of chlorine, organic compounds, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.

A spokeswoman for the agency said there is no significant amount of hazardous material in the building to warrant a safety threat.