SHELTON — Units are battling a heavy fire on Canal Street East Saturday night, according to initial dispatch reports.

Firefighters responded to the area of Howe Avenue and Canal Street around 7:30 p.m. Reports indicate the fire was at the historic Star Pin building, 273 Canal St. East.

The first arriving unit reported heavy fire from the rear of the 118,000-square-foot, several-story building with flames coming through the roof. A second alarm was struck for the fire almost immediately.

One witness said, “coming through downtown Shelton, it looks like it is snowing with the ashes coming down from the sky.”

The fire has spread to at least one other nearby building, as well as the wooded area nearby.

“The fire department is using a defensive attack only,” Shelton Deputy Fire Chief Paul J. Wilson said around 8 p.m.

He said Derby fire units also responded to help with the blaze, with Ansonia fire units covering the Shelton downtown station and Monroe covering Shelton’s White Hill fire station.

Firefighters had Howe Avenue shut down between White and Brook streets around 8:18 p.m., as crews tapped into additional hydrants for water supply.

One witness said she was driving at the intersection near Porky’s, at 50 Center St., when she saw what appeared to be hot plates falling from the sky. Turns out it was the ash from the blaze on Canal Street.

The City of Shelton forclosed on the site in 2018 for roughly $600,000 in unpaid back taxes. The city agreed to sell the former factory to Bridgeport-based Primrose Companies, owned by John Guedes, earlier this year.

The agreement indicated the cost of the site was $500,000. The sale was approved during a March 12 Board of Aldermen meeting.

Guedes told officials he intended to submit plans to convert the building into studio and one-bedroom apartments.

The sale earlier this year came after the state Department of Economic and Community Development approved a $750,000 grant for the remediation of hazardous building materials at the site. The money was used to remove materials including lead and asbestos.

For nearly 110 years, the Star Pin factory made millions of brass buttons, pins and hooks. The Star Pin Co. left Shelton in the early 1980s, but the name stuck.

Over the last several decades, the property has been the home of a variety of manufacturing firm. But for the last roughly 15 years, the property has been vacant.

This story will be updated.