Cause of Brattleboro fire still unknown
By KEVIN O’CONNOR
CORRESPONDENT | October 18,2013
Kevin O’Connor Photo
Investigators and cleanup crews work Thursday outside a Brattleboro apartment house that caught fire the night before.
BRATTLEBORO — Authorities can’t yet say what sparked a fire Wednesday that displaced 17 tenants from an apartment house in a densely populated neighborhood just steps from downtown.
“There’s nothing that’s jumping out,” Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi said a day after seven departments from Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire responded to an alarm at the four-floor, seven-unit structure at 214 Elliot St.
An exhausted Bucossi started work at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, traveled to the first report of smoke at 4:46 p.m. and stayed on the scene overnight until 8:30 a.m. Thursday, when he returned to his office just down the street to consult another full day with local fire and police investigators.
Lacking visual clues, authorities now are interviewing tenants in hopes of unearthing a cause.
The blaze — whose billowing smoke could be seen by motorists on Interstate 91 — sent three local firefighters to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for treatment of a shoulder injury, exhaustion and an unidentified “medical reason.”
All tenants and their pets remained safe and accounted for Thursday.
The Red Cross has arranged for temporary lodging in area motel rooms through the end of the week, but residents face the challenge of finding new affordable housing.
The building’s owner, Bob Remy-Powers, stood outside the charred structure Thursday talking with investigators, cleanup crews and neighbors.
Remy-Powers, who owns several other local apartment houses, held a plaque he saved from inside noting “the improvement of this property is dedicated to the memory” of his late father, Erwin Stratton Powers.
“I don’t have vacancies, but I’ll help them look for other places,” he told reporters. “I got a call from another landlord saying he has a few.”
Remy-Powers couldn’t say whether he’d be able to rebuild the gray clapboard structure, just one of several wooden apartment houses that line a street leading to the town’s central business district.
“They put a ton of water on it,” he said. “It was great to see such a wonderfully coordinated team effort.”
Bucossi credited his department and colleagues from Putney, the Massachusetts towns of Greenfield and Northfield and the New Hampshire towns of Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Keene and Spofford for stopping the blaze.
“The possibility was there it could have spread.”
The chief said the building’s smoke alarms saved lives, but its new pitched roof atop an old flat one required firefighters to call in a crane to remove the metal obstacle.
The neighborhood’s web of high-hanging power lines didn’t help, either.
“It was hard to get the ladder trucks in there,” Bucossi said.