Investigators will assume the cause of a massive apartment fire that reduced a Norwich, Connecticut apartment complex to smoldering rubble is suspicious unless proven otherwise, a police official said.
“They’re going to treat it as suspicious until they find out it isn’t,” Norwich police Capt. Timothy Menard said. “This is a huge disaster. It will remain a crime scene,” he said.
All residents have been accounted for and no serious injuries were reported, city officials said Sunday, a day after the blaze left 155 people homeless.
“We were very lucky,” police Sgt. Michael Belair said.
Norwich City Manager Alan Bergren said local and state fire officials are investigating, but because of the extent of the damage, it’s not clear when results will be available, he said.
“Because of the level of destruction, an investigation will probably take a little time to get a handle on what occurred,” he said.
The Red Cross and city Social Services Department are helping to find accommodations for displaced residents, Bergren said.
“‘We’re using all the efforts of city agencies and the cooperation of the state of Connecticut,” he said.
Edgar Pardo, 44, a dealer at the Mohegan Sun casino, said he was at work when the fast-moving fire was reported at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.
:My family and I lost everything. I mean everything,” he said. “My mother left the building in her pajamas. She didn’t even have time to get her eye glasses or her dentures. So she’s practically walking around blind and she even can’t eat.”
Firefighters reported that two buildings were fully engulfed by flames by the time they arrived and tenants were calling for help.
Norwich police and firefighters are credited with saving lives through hurried, systematic evacuations. Police officers arrived at the scene and joined firefighters door-to-door in the burning building as tenants yelled for help.
“The guys just stepped up and did what needed to be done,” Menard said. “They broke in many doors with their shoulders and their bodies.”
Flames that started near the corner of one building engulfed the wood and brick structures and spread through a false peaked roof that covered a flat roof across the complex. Norwich Fire Chief Kenneth Scandariato said the roof lacked fire breaks that could have slowed the fire’s progress.
The building had working smoke and fire alarms, but no sprinklers, he said.
Norwich city building officials are investigating whether the building was up to code, he said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell visited the burned out site Sunday and urged Connecticut residents to donate to the Red Cross. She also pledged help from state agencies for displaced residents seeking accommodations and other services, Bergren said.
Sue Rochester-Bolen, manager of emergency services for the Red Cross, said all residents suffered a total loss or close to it and will require a new place to live, clothes and other services, even the need to replace driver’s licenses.
“We’re working with families to meet their most urgent needs, to find a safe, warm place to stay, clothes and food,” she told The Associated Press on Sunday. “It’s a total loss. Everything has been destroyed,” Rochester-Bolen said.
Friends, relatives and area landlords have offered a place to live for those who were burned out, she said.
“Family members and friends and other neighbors have really stepped up to the plate,” Rochester-Bolen said.
Information from: Norwich Bulletin
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