NEWFANE — A fire destroyed a local favorite, the Newfane Cafe and Creamery, Wednesday afternoon.
Route 30 in Newfane was shut down for several hours to allow local fire departments and mutual aid companies to respond and battle the fire that was difficult to knock down due to wind and the structure of the building.
"That metal roof holds the heat in, so it's very difficult to get it knocked down," said Phil Tirrell, mutual aid coordinator. "It started with a fire in the rear of on the outside of building and it spread to the building and extended to inside of the building."
The Newfane Cafe and Creamery sat on the first floor of the building and has been owned by Ken Schatra for eight years. The second floor contained some offices for West River Valley Thrives, which promotes healthy lifestyle choices with an emphasis on the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by young people.
"We were working in our office and the first thing I noticed was this whooshing sound and 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.
The fire began between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and Newbrook was the first department to respond. Firefighters tried to contain the fire on the backside of the building and then they tried to go inside for about a minute or two, but deemed that it was unsafe. The fire was moved up to a second alarm at 3:12 p.m. and then a third alarm was struck around 3:15 p.m.
All occupants of the building safely evacuated before the fire entered the building, and two items, a motorcycle and an uninsured couch made from coins, were rescued without visible damage. Green Mountain Power immediately responded to the scene to turn off the power and around 5 p.m. the fire was still not under control. Firefighters worked to put it out from all ends of the building. They knocked out windows and doors and sprayed water from hoses to all areas. The back side of the structure was destroyed and water was pumped from a nearby pond as no fire hydrants were close by.
"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," said Chris Liller, Wardsboro Fire Chief. "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 wind continued to change direction, forcing firefighters to chase the flames. Aside from the weather, the structure also gave the firefighters a challenge, 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 Fire and Rescue Chief Todd Lawley. "It use to be the old Texaco building, which was all cement blocks and that building is still inside there and they built around it, so we're having a difficult time getting to all the places they added on to it. We're going to get an excavator in here to try and tare off the roof so we can get to the fire, but if we get to it that way, then we'll tare the whole building down."
According to Fire Mutual Aid, the fire was knocked down around 5:50 p.m. but some departments were still on site at 7:30 p.m. Vermont State Police responded to the scene and sent in an investigator to determine the nature of the fire, and there were fire departments from Townshend, Winhall, Wardsboro, Wardsboro, Newbrook, Brattleboro, West Dummerston, East Dover and Putney. Several mutual aid vehicles responded and the Town Hall building was used as a "rehab center," which is set up by Rescue Inc. Any individual that was inside the building is sent to "rehab" where they are rehydrated and have their vital signs taken. If their vital signs are high, they are transported to the nearby hospital.
"We lose a great business, a great place to go and eat," said Eric Craven, an associate designer at Cotton Designs Associates, which is located walking distance from the Newfane Cafe and Creamery. "Without this, your options to sit down and eat are pretty limited or actually kind of gone. It's kind of the centerpiece. The people in town get together here and eat and talk, talk about business, and it's place to eat breakfast lunch or dinner. It's a real bummer."
– Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 275.