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Commercial fire blazes two Rutland Town businesses, fires plague region

Cover - Structure Fire Rutland - By Erin Mansfield

Photo by Erin Mansfield
The remains of Floormaster and SafeLite AutoGlass, Rutland businesses that burned on New Year's eve.

A New Year's Eve fire destroyed two businesses on Route 4 East in Rutland Town.
The building, home to Floormaster and SafeLite AutoGlass, showed little more than charred beams and a crooked sign on New Year's Day.
The site is located behind Little Caesar's Pizza, diagonally across from Rutland High School's Alumni Field on Route 4.
The Rutland Town Fire Department received the call about the fire shortly after 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 from an employee of SafeLite AutoGlass, according to Rutland Town Fire Chief Joe Denardo. The department immediately called in help from Rutland City and Pittsford fire departments.
"We were hoping for a quick response and maybe a quick knockdown," Denardo said, who reported that there were 30 to 35 firefighters on the scene. "Sometimes if you can get a crew in fast you can get it before it spreads too much… but, it was just in a place where it was inaccessible." He suspects that the fire was caused by a heater and does not believe its cause to be suspicious.
"I got a call saying my building was on fire," said Mark Stoutes, owner of Floormaster. "I actually live in Tinmouth. By the time I got there the whole thing was engulfed in flames."
"When they [the firefighters] got there it was confined to one small back section of the building," he said, "so I was pretty shocked by the time I got there to see the building pretty much gone."
"The good thing is nobody got hurt," Stoutes added.
Floormaster, which was located on the left-hand side of the building, is a small business with three employees that services all types of floors, including carpeting and hardwood-from sanding to finishing-according Stoutes. The business also had a residential showroom in Ludlow that closed down earlier in 2013.
Stoutes has been in business for 25 to 30 years. He is planning to open the business back up in the future but is unsure where or when.
"I've had a lot of friends offer buildings and stuff," he said, "and the reaction of everybody has been great."
The other half of the burned building was occupied by SafeLite AutoGlass, a windshield company based out of Columbus, Ohio.
"We are thankful no one was injured in the fire," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We are working on acquiring temporary space until the facility is rebuilt. We're still able to provide mobile service, so there should be no significant impact to our ability to serve customers in the area."

Regional fires
Since the New Year there have been a disproportionate amount of fires around the state, destroying buildings and threatening lives and livelihoods. The Red Cross responded to 10 in the first seven days of the year. Central Vermont has reported four already in 2014. In addition to the Rutland Town fire on Route 4. Saturday, Jan. 4., at 12-noon dozens of firefighters from nine towns battled fire and ice while trying to extinguish a blaze that consumed a barn on Candlestick Lane in Poultney.
Later that day, another fire damaged a home at 47 West St. in Proctor, where firefighters from three towns quickly doused a blaze inside a two-story home. A heater inside the building was responsible for starting the blaze.
The day before, Friday, Jan. 3, area firefighters from six departments battled temperatures that hovered at 6 below zero when a fire broke out at a home at 601 Main Street. The fire was later traced to a wood stove.
Also on Friday, a  fire also struck the Laflammes furniture store in Bennington. (Laflammes also has a branch in Rutland.) The furniture store is a Bennington landmark because it is the home of the "Big Chair," which rises almost 20 feet high and might be the largest chair of its kind. The fire did not damage the chair.
This past Monday, Jan. 6, the most deadly fire yet this year, took a elderly father and a his son's life in Dummerston.

Investigation into fatal fire
DUMMERSTON - On Monday, Jan. 6 at approx. 5 a.m., firefighters and police responded to call at 420 School House Road in Dummerston.
During the response, Russell Nutbrown, age 90, and Russell's son, Barry Nutbrown, age 57, were located deceased inside of the residence. The bodies of both men were transported to the Vermont Office for the Chief Medical Examiner for autopsy.
The fire was initially reported at 4:41 a.m. and fire personnel from four Fire Departments responded immediately. The fire destroyed the residence, but firefighters were able to contain it preventing damage to the surrounding residences.
An investigation into the cause of the fire and resulting deaths is being conducted.
At this time the fire is not considered suspicious, pending the completion of the autopsies and fire investigation.
Both father and son were well-known musicians, locals reported.


Proctorsville residence devastated by blaze

CAVENDISH - With significant snow on the ground and subzero temperatures, three Red Cross volunteers headed out before dawn on Friday, Jan. 3 to the scene of a fire at 601 Main Street in Proctorsville (a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Cavendish, Vt.)
In support of the approximately 40 responding firefighters from six departments who were on scene, the volunteers quickly gathered some hot coffee and breakfast sandwiches, the coffee being donated by the Ludlow Shell station.  Those same volunteers also worked to connect with the one resident reported to live at the home to ensure their emergency needs are being met.
Just three days into 2014, this is the third response by the Vermont & the New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross.  Disaster services volunteers stand ready 365 days a year.  While 90% of their responses are to house and apartment fires, the recent ice storm and the six shelters either opened or supported by the Red Cross, served as a reminder of the larger scale operations for which they are trained and are ready to address.
To help maintain a vibrant corps of volunteers, the Red Cross is always seeking new recruits and would welcome anyone looking to give back to their community.  For more info visit