Trying to pick up the pieces after Newfane fire

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NEWFANE >> The smell of smoke continues to linger in the air and locals stop their vehicles on Route 30 to look at the burnt structure of what once contained the Newfane Cafe Creamery and several offices.

At approximately 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, the NewBrook Fire Department was dispatched to the 550 VT Route 30 for a fire at the rear of the building. Recently investigators determined the area of origin.

"Based on reports from initial fire crews, and through on-scene investigation, we have determined the area of origin to be located under an exterior porch and set of stairs at the rear of the building where the restaurant stored broken down cardboard awaiting recycle," stated a press release from the Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Safety. "The fire then extended up the wall and into the eaves of the roof and into the attic eventually spreading throughout the structure."

Route 30 in Newfane was closed for several hours on Wednesday due to the fire. After department's arrived, the fire was soon bumped up to a three-alarm fire and was declared knocked down around 5:50 p.m., according to Fire Mutual Aid. However, firefighters battled the flames through the night and into the next morning. Strong winds and the multi-layered structure of the building made the blaze difficult to put out, fire officials said. An excavator was brought in to expose hot spots so that further extinguishment could take place.

According to investigators with the Department of Public Safety's Fire Investigation Unit, the building is considered a "complete loss."

At this time, the cause of the fire is listed as undetermined, however, it is not considered "suspicious." As far as rebuilding the restaurant goes, some believe it is too soon to know if that is a viable option in town, but some community members hope the owners will.

"It's a sad day for a community. Today I tried to get something to eat and from Brattleboro to Stratton, there's nothing to eat," said Greg Miller of Newfane. "Rick's was closed, the diner was closed, so I had to settle for a sandwich," he added with a laugh.

Miller collected some salvageable items from the building for his friend, Ken Schatra, who owned and ran the Newfane Cafe and Creamery for the past eight years. Miller gathered some copper pots that he said hung above the cook's line.

Schatra's wife, Denise Kiss, says it is "too soon" to know if they will rebuild. However, community members have not hesitated to step in and help. A GoFundMe page was started by Newfane Anew, a community-based group of volunteers that work to rejuvenate the villages of Newfane, South Newfane, and Williamsville, Vermont.

"This fund is dedicated to offering financial support for those who were recently displaced and lost their employment due to the catastrophic fire that destroyed the Newfane Cafe and Creamery building," Newfane Anew posted on its Facebook page Timeline.

If anyone would like to donate to this page the link is https://www.gofundme.com/newfanecafe

Kiss said she is aware of two other community outreach efforts right now for the Creamery and businesses on the second floor. The other donation page can be found at youcaring.com. To find the proper donation page, type in the search bar, "Friends and Neighbors Helping the Newfane Creamery."

In addition, a fundraiser will be held Sunday, March 6, at the Four Columns at 21 West Street in Newfane from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Family style appetizers will be offered and 10 percent of the proceeds from meal and beverage purchases will go toward those who were displaced by the fire.

While the Newfane Cafe and Creamery was known as the gathering spot for locals, all of the businesses on the second floor were destroyed by the fire as well, 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

Kiss said that she and Scharta are taking inventory of what used to be in the building and are literally picking up the pieces from here. Kiss notes that many of the items that could not be saved had sentimental value.

"My father's clock that he gave Kenny, we had a great poster in the bathroom of Long Island Sound, a couple of stain glass lamps, a lot of photos. Kenny had a lot of memorabilia in there," said Kiss.

In moving forward it will be determined by the owners of the building, Pamela and Brad Horn, of whether or not and when the building would be completely taken down by an excavator. From there, community members will have to wait and see if, and then when and where, the restaurant and other businesses would be rebuilt.

"Ken's like, 'what am I going to do every day?'" Kiss said. "He's got to keep himself busy, I thankfully have a corporate job in Connecticut that will keep me busy during the day, but really there is nothing to be done until we see where we're at with any decisions that Pam and Brad make."

VTrans will handle some erosion that occurred near the building and was caused by runoff from fighting the fire on March 2. Marc Bickering, the district 2 project manager of VTrans, said the erosion is not a "major problem," and should cost a few hundred dollars to fix everything.

Anyone who may have been in the area at the time of the fire, or may have information related to the cause, is encouraged to contact the Division of Fire Safety.

The NewBrook Fire Department received mutual aid assistance from numerous surrounding Fire Departments, on scene and as station coverage, including Brattleboro, Dummerston, Townshend, Putney, Williamsville, Westminster, Jamaica, East Dover, Wardsboro, Grafton, Guilford, West Dover, Wilmington South Londonderry, Peru, Winhall, and Stratton. Assistance was also received from Rescue Inc Ambulance, Vermont State Police, and CERT.

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


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