Three-alarm fire destroys Newfane Cafe and Creamery
Photo Gallery | Fire at Newfane Cafe and Creamery
NEWFANE — A local favorite, the Newfane Cafe and Creamery, was destroyed by a three-alarm fire Wednesday afternoon.
"We lost a great business — a great place to go and eat," said Eric Craven, who works within walking distance of the creamery. "Without this, your options to sit down and eat are pretty limited or actually kind of gone. It's kind of the centerpiece ... It's a real bummer."
The fire, which began between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., closed Route 30 in Newfane for several hours. Winds and the multi-layered structure of the building made the blaze difficult to put out, fire officials said.
"That metal roof holds the heat in, so it's very difficult to get it knocked down," Chief Phil Tirrell, of Fire Mutal Aid, said. "It started with a fire in the rear of on the outside of the building, and [then] it spread to the building and extended to the inside of the building."
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.
"We were working in our office, and the first thing I noticed was this whooshing sound. I thought it was just wind, and then I looked out the window and on the corner of the building I could see flames, so we just got out immediately," said Kristin Cox, program director of West River Valley Thrives, which had offices on the second floor of the building.
When the fire broke out, NewBrook Volunteer Fire and Rescue was the first to respond. Firefighters tried to contain the fire on the backside of the building before attempting to move inside the building. Green Mountain Power immediately responded to the scene to turn off the power. A second call for help was issued at 3:12 p.m., with a third call dispatched at 3:15 p.m.
At 5 p.m., the fire was still not under control. 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 into the part of the building that is already involved and keep it out of the uninvolved area," Wardsboro Fire Chief Chris Liller said. "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. Water had to be pumped from a nearby pond because of a lack of nearby fire hydrants. 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.
"This building has been added onto four or five times over the years," said NewBrook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Todd Lawley. "It used to be the old Texaco building, which was all cement blocks. That building is still inside there. They built around it, so we're having a difficult time getting to all the places they added on to it."
According to Fire Mutual Aid officials, the fire was knocked down around 5:50 p.m. but a few departments were still at the site at 7:30 p.m. Vermont State Police has sent in an investigator to determine cause of the fire.
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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