ON THIS DATE IN HISTORY – 8 years ago today on January 11, 2009 – 4th alarm fire at Lawrence Block off South Main St. in Brattleboro. Dispatchers on duty were Dave Whipple and John Bates.
The fire was reported at 12:45am. An alarm was received from the building’s automatic fire alarm which is hooked into the municipal fire alarm system and at the same time Brattleboro Central Dispatch was receiving phone calls reporting the fire.
As the crew from Central Station was preparing to respond they could see the flames from the station and immediately upgraded to a 2nd alarm, calling in all Brattleboro Firefighters.
Arriving at the scene Firefighters were faced with heavy fire venting from the 1st and 2nd floors in the area of apartment #3, which is located in the old section or what we called the annex. The crew split, one doing evacuation of adjacent aparments while the other did fire attack.
The fire had a big head start and eventually 3rd & 4th alarms were transmitted, bringing in mutual aid towns to the scene to assist. Our objectives were life safety (always #1), to confine the fire to the annex and not letting it spread into the main building.
Because of the large volume of fire in the annex we were not going to save that, so our attention and efforts turned to saving the main building. Finally, there was great concern that the fire would spread to 21 South Main St, the house just to the north, as there is only a 5 foot alley between the two buildings. This house did receive some damage (vinyl siding was melted) but that was the extent of it largely due to a “water curtain” that was put into play from Hinsdale’s aerial ladder.
There were 3 minor injuries; a tenant in the apartment were the fire started received a minor burn to her lower leg, one tenant was treated for minor smoke inhalation and one tenant had existing medical issues. All three were transported by rescue Inc to BMH where they were treated and released that morning.
There were no injuries to firefighters despite the heavy snow and slippery conditions.
There were 7 towns working at the fire (approx 75 firefighters) and Brattleboro stations were covered by three other towns. All of this took place under pre- determined mutual aid running orders.
The cause of the fire has been officially determined to be accidental in nature. The annex was destroyed by the fire but the main building received no damage.
Plans are already underway to restore electric, heat and water service to the main building so tenants can move back in. This may take a couple or so weeks.
Human Service agencies and the Town of Brattleboro are working with displaced tenants in both buildings in hopes of making their situations a little easier.
Donation information is expected out soon. I hope this helps to answer your questions and I want to thank you all for the kind words in other posting/articles.
Brattleboro Fire Chief