A large fire has severely damaged a historic multi-use building in the center of New Hartford known as the New Hartford House on Tuesday morning and now the community is looking at how to pick up the pieces.
Crews from 29 departments were called in to fight the fire, authorities said. More than 100 firefighters were at the scene, and several were taken to the hospital, including a 26-year-old volunteer firefighter from Burlington who suffered a medical emergency and was listed in critical condition.
Now crews are trying to clean up as those who lived and worked in the building assess the full scope of the damage.
According to New Hartford First Selectman Dan Jerram, the building was built in 1850 and was home to six storefronts and 14 apartments.
"It's really just a gut punch for our community," he said.
Maja Corlett and her husband Glenn are co-owners of Farm River Cafe, one of the businesses. She called the loss "heartbreaking."
"I've been crying all day just because of it. We met here, got married here, we have a lot of hopes and dreams invested in there," she said.
Her husband said they started the cafe in 2019 and have been closed since the start of the pandemic, but had been planning to reopen.
"We have a lot of, even in a short time, we have a lot of history there. It's sad. It's a sad day for sure," Glenn said.
Many said they hope to see the building rise again with the facade the exact same.
"This building is the most significant building in this town. It meant everything, emotionally, politically, socially, and the town is going to suffer," said Bill Baxter, a former first selectman who served from 2001 to 2008.
Fire officials said they first got the call around 2:30 a.m. and there were concerns that people were still inside the building. Crews walked one person down from the second floor.
Chief Mark Worsman, of the New Hartford Volunteer Fire Department, said the alarm system in the building did work and helped to get everyone out. He said the news of the injured Burlington firefighter has weighed heavily on him.
"When something like this happens, it's a critical injury, you feel for the family, you feel for the fire department because they're brothers and sisters. We work with them and we just want a speedy recovery for him," he said.
All 22 tenants of the building have been accounted for and are safe.
The cause of the fire is under investigation and officials are looking to speak with anyone who witnessed the fire.
"There's a lot of damage, there's a lot of building collapse. There's a lot of safety issues we have to deal with and continue to deal with," said Sgt. Paul Makuc, of the Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit, which responded to work with local officials.
Officials said the building will need to be demolished.
"We're asking if anybody has any information, if anybody saw anything, heard anything in the early morning hours, to please give us a call, let us know, the new Hartford fire marshal's office or the Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit," he said.
Those interested in donating to help the tenants can do so by bringing those donations to Hands of Grace at 8 Wickett St. They are looking for new socks and underwear, gently used clothing, personal care items, small household goods, and monetary donations for food.