Western Avenue apartment building damaged in fire

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BRATTLEBORO — Seven people are being accommodated by the New Hampshire/Vermont Region of the American Red Cross following a fire Tuesday night in an apartment building on Western Avenue. Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said the fire started on the first floor of the building, on a living room couch. The cause is under investigation, though Bucossi said it's believed to be accidental.

The fire was confined to one unit of the five-apartment building, but caused extensive damage to that first-floor unit. Bucossi doesn't believe it is livable.

The tenant wasn't home at the time, and other tenants were safely rescued from the building.

Bucossi said most of the rescue efforts could be attributed to Vermont State Trooper Matt Steeves, who was passing by.

Steeves had pulled over a driver who was "acting strangely." He turned on his car lights to investigate then realized that 901 Western Ave. was on fire.

He immediately called the Fire Department then started knocking on windows around the first apartment.

Once he realized no one was inside, he went to other apartments and alerted other tenants. The other tenants were able to get their pets and escape.

Steeves said this wasn't the sort of thing he's trained for, but just fell under public safety. "It was sheer luck that I was there," he said. "It was fate."

On Thursday an inspector will go through the building to make sure other tenants can return.

Bucossi said, in his opinion, the fire in the first apartment caused so much damage because it was left unattended for so long.

Still, if a fire was going to happen, Bucossi said, it happened at a good time, when people were awake.

One firefighter was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital by Rescue Inc. for a medical condition. He was later released. No civilians were injured.

During the incident, firefighters' jobs were made more difficult by traffic. Some people drove over the fire hoses, Bucossi said. He wanted to remind people of the danger of driving over fire hoses.

"It puts firefighters in danger," he said, because driving over the hoses could rupture them and stop the flow of water. He also added that driving over a fire hose is against the law.

Harmony Birch can be reached at hbirch@reformer.com, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.


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