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Official: Fire the largest in last 5 years
Updated On: Aug 15, 2010

Official: Fire the largest in last 5 years

NORWALK
By STEVE KOBAK
Norwalk Hour Staff Writer

A fire official said it could take weeks for investigators to determine the cause of the blaze that ripped through a Wall Street building early Friday morning, but investigators retrieved potentially valuable evidence at the fire scene.  Deputy Fire Chief Ed Prescott said accelerant-sniffing dogs led investigators to a few pieces of evidence that are currently being evaluated at a state forensic laboratory. He cautioned that the evidence located by the dogs may just be a chemical that was used in the kitchen of one of the restaurants that burned in the fire.  "We might have something that gives a false positive, but that's why we sent it to the state lab," said Prescott, who commanded the 2nd platoon of the Norwalk Fire Department while they battled the blaze.  Prescott said the blaze was the largest fire in Norwalk in the past five years and one of the biggest fires of the past decade. He said the fire would have caused even more destruction if it weren't for the "exemplary work" of the firefighters in the 2nd platoon to stabilize the structure of the building.  "They extended themselves to their physical capacities to make sure the building was still standing," said Prescott. "If we lost the building, we could have lost the two buildings on the sides of it."  Fire officials said the fire began in an auxiliary storage unit in the rear kitchen area of Ganga's Restaurant -- a defunct restaurant formerly owned by Ganga Duleep, the building's landlord and the mother of former city councilwoman Anna Duleep.   A family who owns a Peruvian restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J., currently leases the former site of Ganga's Restaurant, and the space was under renovation at the time of the blaze, Ganga Duleep said.  Seven people safely escaped the building using the front exit, but three people could not access the front stairwell or the fire escape in the rear of the building.  One resident shinned down a tree onto a ledge above a set of railroad tracks, but the other two residents jumped out of their window and fell 25 or more feet onto the railroad tracks, according to Norwalk Fire officials.  The two persons who landed on the railroad tracks were taken to Norwalk Hospital with broken bones, according to police.  Prescott commended the work of his firefighters as well as the work of the neighboring departments who helped battle the blaze and man the fire stations that were vacated by the 47 Norwalk firefighters who were fighting the Wall Street fire.  Firefighters from Stamford, Westport, Wilton, Rowayton, New Canaan and Fairfield helped Norwalk fight the blaze and also manned the fire stations during the fire response and the subsequent investigation.   "That's the way the fire department works. We always step up and we never run out of resources," he said.  Four families were displaced by the fire, and Ganga Duleep said she is going to provide the families with apartments at additional rental properties she owns in the city. Duleep said she plans on restoring the burnt building and is awaiting word from the fire department and the insurance company before taking the next step.  "Something like this has never happened to me before," she said. "I don't know what to do."


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