[Updated, 3:50 p.m.] Residents who have been displaced by the fire at 140 Kane St. in West Hartford will have the opportunity to return to their homes to collect necessities once the preliminary investigation is complete.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Director of Human and Leisure Services Helen Rubino-Turco said late Thursday afternoon that the investigation of 140 Kane St. is continuing, and town and state fire officials are still on the scene.
“Once this preliminary investigation is complete, residents will have an opportunity to make a brief visit into their individual units to collect urgent personal items; i.e., medication, toiletries, a quick change of clothing, etc.,” Rubino-Turco said in an emailed statement.
Individual residents will only be able to enter the building one-by-one, and will have to be escorted by West Hartford Police Department officers who are stationed at the site. The required procedures are because of potentially unsafe conditions in the building and for security, Rubino-Turco said.
The town will be updating the 140 Kane Street Fire Facebook page as soon as the residents will begin to be allowed into the building, and will post other updates on the page as well.
Rubino-Turco said that no one will be able to stay in the building overnight tonight.
[Updated, 2:50 p.m.] According to West Hartford Fire Department Assistant Chief Richard Winn, three of those injured in Thursday morning’s fire were transported to the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital.
Winn confirmed that two of the three who were admitted to the burn unit were “doing better” but specifics on their conditions were not available. He did not have an update on the third because that person had not yet been completely evaluated.
Investigation of the multi-story apartment-style condominium was still ongoing, Winn said, and the cause of the fire had not been determined.
The Red Cross, which has established a shelter at the Elmwood Community Center for those displaced by the fire said that the organization is available to anyone displaced by the fire, including those who have a place to stay.
“The Red Cross will be providing lunch, dinner, snacks and a place for people displaced by this fire to stay overnight. Even if residents have a place to stay for the night, please visit the shelter to speak with the Red Cross to learn about ways we may be able to help,” the Red Cross Connecticut Chapter posted on its Facebook page.
A community page has also been set up on Facebook, and updates on the fire are being posted. Information about assistance for those affected will be posted on that page as well.
Nine residents were taken to two area hospitals, four with critical injuries, after an early morning blaze erupted in a multiple-story condominium building at 140 Kane St. in West Hartford. One firefighter was also injured, Fire Department Chief Gary Allyn said.
The injuries to the occupants were from “smoke and heat,” Allyn said. All are still at the hospital and no further information was yet available.
The firefighter’s injuries were not smoke-related, and Allyn said he was being evaluated at a local emergency room.
Two of those taken to the hospital were from the second-floor unit where the fire originated but firefighters had not yet been able to speak with them.
There are 40 units in the Westwood complex, which is an apartment-style condominium. The exact number of occupants had not been determined, but Allyn said that all had been accounted for. The number of displaced residents has been estimated at 100.
One female resident owned two cats, one of which did not survive the fire. A male resident escaped with his two dogs.
The fire was reported at 2:16 a.m., Battalion Chief John Sokolowski said. Multiple 911 calls were made from residents who reported that smoke alarms were going off. “Flames were visible from multiple windows on the second floor,” Sokolowski said.
When firefighters arrived at the scene there were still occupants in the building, and some had to be extricated from porches with ladders. Nobody jumped, he said.
According to Sokolowski, the building was not required to have sprinklers.
All five West Hartford companies responded and mutual aid was called in from UConn and Newington, Sokolowski said.
According to Allyn, it took about an hour to bring the fire under control, although it was “knocked down” faster than that.
The fire originated on the “B-level” (second floor) of the building. It was a one-bedroom unit, Sokolowski said.
Monica Bustamante is the owner of a third-floor condominium unit at the Westwood, which she rents to Efren Ochoa. She said he called her at about 2:30 a.m.
“By the time he woke up the smoke was really intense,” Bustamante said. Ochoa told her that a female resident who was in front of him while they were evacuating was having difficulty walking and was one of those transported to the hospital.
“The smoke was really dark and thick, and spread quickly,” Bustamante said Ochoa told her.
Assistant Chief Michael Sinsigalli, who is West Hartford’s fire marshal, said that he was “cautiously optimistic” that residents of the undamaged floors would be able to return later Thursday once electricity could be restored. Residents of the B-level, as well as units above and below where the fire started, would be displaced longer, he said.
The Red Cross and Salvation Army were called to the scene, and some displaced residents were being housed at the Elmwood Community Center, including one elderly woman who had left her wheelchair behind.
Sinsigalli said he was concerned that many residents did not leave the building right away when the alarm sounded, and that was why they had to be taken off the porches by ladder.
“The alarm goes off all the time. Residents of multi-family buildings should treat every alarm as if there is a fire, until they hear otherwise,” Sinsigalli said.
At 7:30 a.m. fire inspectors and detectives from the West Hartford Police Department were preparing to enter the building to begin their inspection. The cause of the fire had not yet been determined.
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