BRATTLEBORO -- An early morning fire on Green Street left five people without a home on Wednesday.

Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi said at approximately 2:21 a.m. firefighters on duty at Central Station on Elliot Street heard a lot of noise coming from the area behind the station. Going to a window to investigate they observed fire coming from the back of a building on Green Street, up on the hill directly behind the station.

"They saw fire coming out of the back of the building," he said.

The fire at 72 Green Street was upgraded to a second alarm at 2:23 a.m. and a third alarm at 2:34.

Building occupants evacuating from an apartment told firefighters that the tenant was still in apartment No. 4. A hose line was stretched down the hall leading to that apartment in an attempt to make entry but firefighters were quickly driven out by fire and heat, stated a press release from the fire department.

"Going to the rear of the building to try another way in they found the tenant on the back porch, who was removed from the area to a waiting ambulance," stated the press release. That tenant was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation. A Putney firefighter received medical attention for an irregular heartbeat.

The fire was declared under control at 5:35 a.m.

The Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley Region American Red Cross provides immediate help for the victims of fire, said Doug Bishop, spokesman. Anyone who would like to help the Red Cross and its mission is encouraged to donate or become a volunteer by visiting www.redcross.org/vermont or by calling 802-660-9130, ext. 111.

"All of the five residents of the building were in need of temporary lodging, which was provided by volunteers with another Red Cross Disaster Action Team," the Red Cross stated in a release. "Assistance for food and clothing was also provided to the Brattleboro fire victims."

"The Red Cross was awesome last night," said Patrick Moreland, Brattleboro's interim town manager, who was on the scene at about 3 a.m. "They were there right away, providing temporary housing and providing basic stuff like a warm cup of coffee for the firefighters."

Anyone who would like to find a way to help out those displaced by the fire is urged to call Denise Brown at the Brattleboro office of Southeastern Vermont Community Action at 254-2795.

The building is uninhabitable at this time, said Bucossi, and whether it can be made safe for occupants again will depend on the results of a professional evaluation.

"Two apartments received very heavy fire damage and the other three had extensive smoke and water damage," he said.

Bucossi said the cause of the fire is not suspicious, but because there was an injury to an occupant, fire investigators from the Vermont State Police are following up on an investigation concluded by the Brattleboro Fire Department.

Bucossi said it's unclear who owns the building.

"We thought it was a guy out of Dummerston, but on the Grand List, it appears the Greenfield Savings Bank owns it," he said. "But the man in Dummerston has been taking responsibility for the building."

Though it was cold -- approximately 12 degrees -- and the region was digging out from a snowstorm, the weather didn't hamper the firefighting effort, said Bucossi.

"There were some slip hazards because of ice produced by the fire hoses," said Bucossi.

The Brattleboro Fire Department was assisted by firefighters from Putney and Guilford, Chesterfield, Hinsdale and Keene, N.H., and Greenfield and Bernardston, Mass. In addition, Rescue Inc., the Brattleboro Department of Public Works and the Brattleboro Police Department assisted on scene. Coverage was provided by firefighters from Wilmington, Vernon, Northfield, Mass., and Keene, N.H.

Bucossi urged homeowners, apartment tenants and property managers to take precautions that prevent fires and that minimize damage or injuries if they do happen.

That includes having functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and performing regular checks of furnaces and boilers. Chimneys should also be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis, he said. This time of the year it's important that people be careful with candles, make sure Christmas lights are serviceable and minimize the use of extension cords, said Bucossi.

For more information on how to prevent, prepare for and recover from a fire, visit www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.