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Massive Fire At Gap Distribution Center In Fishkill Leaves Hundreds Out Of Work

FISHKILL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Gap is scrambling to help employees in Dutchess County after a massive fire ripped through their giant distribution center, forcing hundreds out of work.

State police say about 600 employees were safely evacuated from the Fishkill facility on Merritt Boulevard just before 11 p.m. Monday, when the fire is believed to have started on the second floor and quickly spread.

Firefighters from Dutchess, Putnam, and Ulster counties worked for over six hours to drown out the flames and subsequent hot spots.

"Rapidly deteriorating fire conditions where we went from offensive to defensive attack in seven minutes," Fishkill Fire Chief Brandon Knapp told CBS2's Magdalena Doris.

Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix said all employees at the site have been accounted for and are safe.

The facility opened in 2000 and expanded a year later. The company announced plans in 2014 to add 1,200 jobs over a five-year period and invest $96 million into the distribution center.

"This is peak season for them," said Assistant Dutchess County Executive Ron Hicks. "We're coming into holiday season, but they'll get by this. "

Tuesday morning, workers were told not to come to the still active scene. Steve Kaiser, a forklift maintenance worker, turned around when he heard the news:

"I heard it on the radio when I was coming to work," he said.

While some employees are hopeful they'll be able to get back to work soon, one woman said she'll be filling out an application at an area diner, just in case.

"There was one girl that I used to work with that had about four kids, so I just hope that they do the right thing with them," former employee Nathan Fears said. "Still continue to pay them until they get done."

County officials say Gap is paying the employees who missed out on work Tuesday. The state is working with the clothing retailer to determine if operations can be temporarily moved to another building.

Felix said safety is their top priority, adding that the company is working closely with local emergency agencies that responded the fire.

Firefighters and state police are working to determine the cause of the fire and if the building is structurally sound.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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