Fire Destroys Downtown Block in Vermont Town

May 9, 2007

A fire of undetermined origin burned a downtown block to the ground Sunday in a spectacular blaze that consumed six stores and three apartments, authorities said.

No injuries were reported.

The fire broke out about 1 p.m. in the Colby building, a two-story wood frame structure dating to the early 1900s that housed a jewelry store, a home decorating shop, two antique stores, an upholstery shop and another store in addition to the apartments.

“It was always the heart of town,” said Janice Battison, owner of Antique Marketplace, one of the stores, as she stood watching firefighters hose down the smoldering rubble.

The stores were unoccupied at the time; the residents of the apartments got out unhurt, according to Fire Chief Barry Larson.

More than 60 firefighters from 12 area companies battled stiff winds from the north that hampered the effort, he said. Flames shot 50 feet high, witnesses said.

“It drove the fire right through the building,” said Larson.

But firefighters were able to save the buildings located next to either end of the complex, parking a fire truck next to a Citgo gas station and spraying down an apartment building at the other side.

The fire was brought under control about 5 p.m., but the ruins were smoldering past dark and firefighters using hoses blasted at hot spots. Smoke shrouded the tiny town on the Vermont-New Hampshire border.

“I just can’t believe it,” said Battison. “There’s three manure wheels left in my place, that’s it. But nobody got hurt. All the animals got out alive, the people got out alive.”

About a dozen firefighters remained at the scene into the night.

“There’s still fire in there, but it’s underneath a lot of debris. This’ll still be smoking and smoldering through the night,” Larson said at about 9 p.m. Sunday. “We’ll be here through the morning.”

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