Mike Manzoni

‘You Want to Cry': East Boston Casket Factory Owner, Employees Dealing With Aftermath of Massive Fire

Friday's blaze resulted in the demolition of the factory and the loss of 100 jobs

The owner of the East Boston casket manufacturing factory that burned down in a nine-alarm blaze on Friday met with some of his nearly 100 employees Monday morning, promising to help them.

The New England Casket Company, which was located on Bennington Street, has been reduced to rubble. The fire took care of most of the work, and demolition crews finished the rest over the weekend.

Lou Tobia Sr., whose family owned the business for more than 75 years, met with employees and insurance adjusters, as he tried to figure out a path forward.

“My biggest concern is my employees,” he said. “I have a lot of old time employees.”

He said some of his employees are eligible to retire and receive their pensions, but that’s not an option for everyone.

Vasco Cunha, who’s worked at the company for 42 years, is looking for another job.

“It was sad to see this,” he said. “Every time I drive by here, you want to cry.”

Cunha’s brand new pickup truck also burned in the fire.

At this point, Tobia Sr. doesn’t know whether he’ll rebuild.

“I can’t answer that question. If I could, I’d tell you,” he said. “I wish I had the answer.”

The fire broke out at the New England Casket Company around 3 p.m. Friday. It began in the structure on Bennington Street but quickly spread to other connecting buildings.

Louis Tobia Jr. said they have a rooftop furnace that heats one of their drying ovens and it was the furnace that started the fire.

About 100 Boston and Chelsea firefighters fought the flames, which filled the air with noxious fumes from hazardous chemicals in the building, until they were finally knocked down around 10:30 p.m. Friday.

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