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Norwich Salvation Army fire still under investigation

By Izaskun E. Larrañeta and Claire Bessette, The Day, New London, Conn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 25--NORWICH -- The cause of a fire that damaged the rear of the first floor of the Salvation Army at 262 Main St. remains under investigation, a fire official said Monday.

Fire Chief Kenneth Scandariato said the fire was reported at 12:54 p.m. He said the city's fire department quickly responded to the building. When they arrived, there was no visible fire showing. When they forced the doors open, however, there was a heavy and dense smoke condition on all of the building's three floors.

Scandariato said there were two occupants in the building at the time. No one else was reported in the building, but as a precaution they searched the building for people.

Firefighters found the fire in a small room in the rear of the building and were able to extinguish it, preventing it from spreading to the upper floors. The fire was under control within 40 minutes.

No injuries were reported.

In additional to the city, the Mohegan Tribal FAST team also responded to the fire.

Norwich Salvation Army Captain Jerry Utley said she plans to enter the building this afternoon to assess the damage and start cleaning up.

The first floor office, worship center, Sunday school area and food and clothing pantries sustained fire, smoke and water damage. She said the service agency likely will have to replace the entire contents of those areas, including about 1 ton of food, a refrigerator, freezer, two desks, a desktop computer, phones, Utley's own laptop computer, a copy machine, a table and chairs.

Greg Arpin, assistant building official, also responded to the fire Sunday. He said Monday the building was not condemned, but officials at the Salvation Army know they cannot operate out of the building until it has been properly cleaned by a service professional and an electrician ensures that everything is working properly. He said electricity was turned off at the main switch and not at the street.

Arpin said the fire was confined to a kitchen area. He said he could not comment on the cause of the fire.

He said if the insurance company acts quickly, the Salvation Army should be up and running again in a few weeks.

"We owe these people to be as helpful as we can," said Arpin. "They are usually the ones that respond to a fire and now they need our help. I hope the community rallies behind them."

The Greater Norwich Area Anti-Bullying Coalition houses its Bully Busters group in the second floor of the Salvation Army building. Debbie Kievits, Bully Busters coordinator, said she has not yet been to the building today, but fire officials have told her the second floor sustained only smoke damage.

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"The Salvation Army is always there, the first ones helping people in a disaster," Kievits said, "so it's time for the community to step up and help them."

Utley said the Salvation Army will remain in business. She has had two offers of temporary space at the United Congregational Church at 87 Broadway and at the Norwich Human Services office building at 80 Broadway.

Utley said the Salvation Army's food pantry usually is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week. She hopes to replenish part of the supply in time to distribute items by Thursday.

Food and clothing drives will be held, along with a collection of cash to help replace lost equipment. The food and clothing drive will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Norwichtown Commons Stop & Shop on Town Street in Norwich. The clothing collection box at the Salvation Army parking lot at 262 Main St. was undamaged and remains open for clothing donations.

To send a cash donation, write checks to the Salvation Army, Norwich, CT and mail to P.O. Box 707, Norwich, CT 06360.

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(c)2014 The Day (New London, Conn.)

Visit The Day (New London, Conn.) at www.theday.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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