45 children and adults evacuated from fire in apartment complex

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BRATTLEBORO >> A fire led to the evacuation of 45 children and adults from a 12-apartment building on Valgar Street.

Saturday, the initial call went to Brattleboro Central Dispatch at 6:06 a.m. Firefighters immediately responded to the scene with two engines and a ladder to find apartments 32 and 34 fully engulfed in flames.

"Light was shining in my eyes, and when I opened my eyes I put my hands over my face to block it," said Austin Lee-Pinette, 9, who was inside the apartment complex during the incident. "I took Adam (brother, 3) out of his bed because I thought there was fire, and then mommy grabbed Rosie (sister, 5) and we went out the back and knocked on everyone's windows and doors." Lee-Pinette and the 44 others suffered no injuries. "I grabbed my brother because I wanted to save him."

Brattleboro Fire Chief, Mike Bucossi said that shortly after arrival he hit a second alarm, which notified all of the off-duty Brattleboro personnel that their help was needed. Shortly after, a third alarm was struck that brought three more engines, a ladder and then automatically backfilled both of the stations. Then a fourth alarm was struck that brought three additional engines and another ladder to the scene.

"We needed a lot of people to help with the search" said Chief Bucossi. "When you search 12 apartments, two-and-a-half stories, plus basements, it takes a lot of people do that."

Firefighters entered the building with large hand lines and cut the fire off from spreading the entire length of the complex.

"I got to say that every firefighter here worked really hard and we were successful in containing this thing pretty much to the end of the building where it started," said Chief Bucossi.

All of the occupants were safely evacuated and pets were removed from the building earlier on. The fire was declared under control at 8:33 a.m.

Nearby neighbors helped at the scene, such as Misty Hall who rounded up all the children into her home on Valgar Street.

The American Red Cross arrived at the scene around 9 a.m. to provide refreshments and arrange temporary housing for the occupants. The 45 people will stay at the Gibson Aiken Center until they are notified that they are allowed to return to their apartments.

"There is a lot of heat and smoke damage throughout the complex, we have electrical concerns that we have to deal with and the Division of Fire Safety from Vermont will have to come in and do a complete inspection of the building before any of the apartments are reoccupied," said Chief Bucossi.

For protocol, Rescue Inc. set up relief stations for the firefighters and multiple mutual aid services responded. Departments from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts came to the scene as well as the Brattleboro's water department, public works, utilities division and Town Manager's office.

The cause of fire remains under investigation at this time.

According to a press release from the Brattleboro Fire Department, there was extensive damage to four apartments, moderate smoke and heat damage to some and minor to no damage to others.

Six vehicles and 29 firefighters responded from Brattleboro, which was assisted by personnel and equipment from Putney, Dummerston, Guilford, Wilmington and Bellows Falls; Hinsdale, Keene, Chesterfield, Spofford in New Hampshire; and Greenfield, Northfield and Bernardston in Massachusetts. Also providing assistance were the Brattleboro Police Department, the Red Cross, Green Mountain Power, the Brattleboro Department of Public Works and Rescue Inc.

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


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