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Norwalk Hour Coverage, August 13, 2010
Updated On: Aug 15, 2010

Residents jump for their lives to escape fire

Hour Staff Writer

A raging fire tore through a three-story Wall Street building early Friday morning, forcing some apartment tenants to leap from their windows onto nearby railroad tracks and injuring two residents and two firefighters.  Eight residents escaped the fire and four families were displaced by the blaze, fire officials said. Two of the apartment building's tenants were hospitalized for broken bones, and two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion, according to fire officials.  The blaze also destroyed two restaurants, both of which were under renovation. It also disrupted rail service on the Metro-North Danbury line.  Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy commended the second platoon of the Norwalk Fire Department and Deputy Chief Ed Prescott for their response to the blaze and for saving the outside structure of the building.  "It was very hard work for two-and-a-half hours in the early stage of the fire," said McCarthy. "Usually, these things end up being total losses."  The fire was reported by Norwalk Police officer Christopher Sgritta at 4:44 a.m. Friday.  Sgritta, who has been with the department since October 2009, said he was patrolling in the area of Isaacs Street when he saw thick clouds of smoke emanating from an unknown source, and he began searching for the origin of the smoke.  Moments after alerting dispatch of the smoke, he spotted the burning building, and he quickly exited his vehicle to see if anyone was still inside of the building.  "His alertness and diligence to his duty resulted in police being able to respond just as the fire was taking root," said Norwalk Police Sgt. Angre Velez.  Sgritta said he tried to enter the building, but the smoke was overwhelming. A sergeant arrived on scene and the officers spotted two children looking out of the window of the apartment building on the second floor.  "We yelled at them to get their parents and see if they could come downstairs," Sgritta said.  The children and their parents evacuated their apartment through the front of building, and they were tended to by EMTs, who had arrived on scene in the meantime. None of the four residents who exited from the front of the building required hospitalization.  Officers went to the back of the building to see if any more residents were in the building and by the time they arrived, they spotted three residents who had managed to escape the blaze.  One resident shinned down a tree onto a ledge above a set of railroad tracks, but the other two residents had 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.  Five of the displaced residents were relocated to a hotel by the Red Cross. The landlord of 43-45 Wall St. is providing apartments for the displaced residents at another apartment building that he owns. Firefighters battled the blaze -- which eventually tore through the roof of the building -- for multiple hours, according to McCarthy.  Ganga's Restaurant -- which is owned by Ganga Duleep, the mother of former city councilwoman Anna Duleep -- and Garibaldi Mexican Grill both suffered severe fire damage from the blaze.  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.  Fire Marshal Chris Hansen, the lead investigator of the Wall Street fire, said the fire originated on the first floor, but the cause of the blaze is still undetermined. Hansen said investigators still need to explore "several avenues" and "it will be some time" before fire officials conclude their investigation.  "We could be here a day or so," he said. "It's going to take some time to go through the whole building,"

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