Two men were killed Friday afternoon when fire tore through the old Tiffany Mill site in East Brooklyn, ravaging apartments and forcing nearly a dozen residents from their homes.
"I heard a loud bang and then I heard another bang. I came outside and I looked and saw smoke billowing out the window," said witness Mike Sarette. "It sounded like gunshots, and I came out to see what was going on, and that's when I noticed the building was on fire."
Building owner Jim Dandeneau said earlier Friday afternoon that two residents remained unaccounted for after another tenant went door-to-door to rouse neighbors and get everyone out.
"There are two tenants still missing. We haven't heard yet from the fire department, haven't gotten official word, but we're not sure they made it out," Dandeneau said, adding that one of the missing residents had worked the third shift for him Thursday night.
State police said crews from the Brooklyn Fire Department searched the building just after 1:45 p.m. and found the bodies. According to Major Michael Darcy, the men died in the area where the fire broke out. They have not been publicly identified.
According to emergency dispatchers, flames had already engulfed the building by the time firefighters arrived. It was already too late to save the victims.
"I saw flames shooting maybe 20 feet in the air, maybe more, smoke going everywhere," said Kelly Mahan, who has lived in the building since September."I feel so sorry for the friends and family and everybody. They tried to save them, but they couldn't do it, they couldn't make it, the flames were that high."
Dandeneau said the historic structure, built in 1820, contains seven apartments and houses 10 or 11 residents. A spokesperson for the American Red Cross, which is helping tenants who lost their homes, said at least 14 people have been displaced.
The facility suffered major damage. Dandeneau said smoke detectors sounded but the building is not equipped with sprinklers due to its age. He employs a full-time maintenance worker and added that the apartments are newly renovated and the building is up to code.
Karl Kuhn Jr., of Kuhn Builders in North Grosvenordale, said he saw smoke pouring from the windows and rushed to rescue two tenants in a basement apartment who didn't even realize the building was on fire.
"I'm just glad to get the people out that we did," he said. "Maybe if I was five minutes earlier, I could have done something."
Six fire departments from Brooklyn and Killingly responded to the scene, along with state police troopers, who have shut down Route 6 in the area of 182 South Main Street.
The Connecticut State Police Fire & Explosion Investigative Unit and Eastern District Major Crime Squad are investigating, along with the local fire marshal.
It's not yet clear if the fire is accidental or will be deemed suspicious.
Check back for updates on this developing story.