A long night after Newfane Cafe and Creamery fire


Photo Gallery | The smoldering remains of the Newfane Cafe and Creamery

NEWFANE — Local firefighters have not slept much in the last 24 hours as they battled a fire through the night that destroyed the Newfane Cafe and Creamery and offices on the second floor.

"There's so many places that they kept adding onto with the building that the fire kept going into crawl spaces which we couldn't get to," said NewBrook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Todd Lawley. "That's the reason we took out the excavator because we couldn't get to it, but even this morning we got called out at 4 a.m. because it was burning again in the back and front."

The fire, which began between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., closed Route 30 in Newfane for several hours on March 2. It was bumped up to a three-alarm fire and was declared knocked-down around 5:50 p.m., according to Fire Mutual Aid. However, some fire departments stayed at the scene until about 11 p.m, and were called back at midnight because the flames returned. They left the site once again at 3:30 a.m. and then were called back at 4 a.m. for additional flames in the front and back of the building and around the carpets. Departments stayed at the scene until about 6:30 a.m., while some firefighters hovered around during the investigation later into the morning hours.

Strong winds and the multi-layered structure of the building made the blaze difficult to put out, fire officials said. When the fire broke out, NewBrook Volunteer Fire and Rescue was the first to respond. Firefighters tried to contain the fire on the backside, where investigators from Vermont State Police and Divisions Fire Safety said they believe it started.

"We don't consider it to be suspicious at the moment, but we're still going to be here for several more hours," Sgt. Steve Otis from Vermont State Police said on March 3. Otis said he and Paul Spicer of Division of Fire and Safety arrived at the scene around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 3.

The Newfane Cafe and Creamery, which has been owned by Ken Schatra for the last eight years, was located on the first floor of the building. The building's occupants were safely evacuated before the fire entered the building. Two items, a motorcycle and a couch made from coins, were rescued without visible damage.

Firefighters worked to put it out from all ends of the building, knocking out windows and doors as they sprayed water from hoses to all areas. "Typically when you make an interior attack, you try to force it into the part of the building that is already involved and keep it out of the uninvolved area," Wardsboro Fire Chief Chris Liller said during the fire on Wednesday. "But just so much of the building is consumed right now, they're just trying to knock the main part of the fire, and I think they're doing a pretty good job."

Despite all efforts, the firefighters faced several challenges. The wind continued to change direction, forcing firefighters to chase the flames. The building's construction also became problematic, eventually forcing them to call an excavator to take the roof off of the building.

In addition, they used all the water from the Loop Road Pond and the Four Columns Pond and drew some water from the Smith Brook that was near Loop Road Pond.

"It would be an incredible loss if we had another fire like yesterday because where would we go to fill up?" said Gloria Cristelli, the Town Clerk of Newfane. "We have Grout Pond, but it's miles away up a back road that is not easy to access."

According to Lawley, they have never "sucked a pond dry before" the fire that occurred Wednesday. He added that their hoses pump out 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

On Thursday morning Lawley said he believes they finally had the fire under control, but were waiting to hear from investigators what caused it.

"It's the most devastating thing that's happened to Newfane and to the owners of the business as well of the owner of the building," said Cristelli. It was sort of a heartbeat, community gathering place for the people and it's going to be missed terribly."

While the Newfane Cafe and Creamery was known as the gathering spot for locals, all of businesses on the second floor were destroyed by the fire, such as the Newfane Wellness Center; Massage Therapy by Alison Trowbridge; a work space for Psychologist, Jim Carew, West River Valley Thrives and a workspace for Pamela Horn, co-owner of the building.

Pamela and Brad Horn have co-owned the building since 1995, when WW used it for storage.

"I had my paperwork, I had my business and I had my fire policy in that building, which is now burnt up."

Pamela said she has contacted her insurance agent, was waiting for a phone call from her insurance company and a conversation with the fire marshal to determine was caused the fire.

"The cafe was basically a centerpiece and people met there and gossiped and ate good food," said Pamela.

In addition, when the excavator from A.S. Clark & Sons arrived Wednesday night to take the building's roof out, the excavator operator, Achie Clark, fell off the track of the vehicle and landed on ice on his head. "When he went to get out of it, he fell off the track and fell on his head," said Lawley. "Rescue. Inc took him to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to just to get checked out; they believe he may have a concussion but he is home."

Lawley thanked Rick Taverns who supplied the firefighters with water, hamburgers and fries during fire. He also thanked Dave Onyon, the department's chaplain and his wife, Janice, who supplied food and warmth during the event.

Fire departments from Townshend, Winhall, Wardsboro, Wardsboro, NewBrook, Brattleboro, West Dummerston, East Dover and Putney responded to the fire. Rescue Inc. set up a "rehab center" at the town hall, where individuals who were inside the building were evaluated.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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