Tuesday, January 7, 2014
DeLauro commends firefighters, community after Shelton fire
SHELTON >> Heroism and compassion.
These qualities were in the spotlight Tuesday as U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, commended firefighters who saved lives as they battled a blaze Monday on Howe Avenue.
The fire destroyed seven businesses and three stories of apartments above.
DeLauro and Bernard Sweeney, director of the Connecticut Small Business Administration, addressed business owners and fire victims at Echo Hose, Hook & Ladder Company firehouse, yards away from the still-smoldering scene.
“This is a miraculous place,” DeLauro said. “Thank God for the firefighters. There was no loss of life because of our professional first responders.”
DeLauro said the piles of clothing and other donations collected at the firehouse since early Monday “is a testament of the good people of this community to let you know you are not alone.”
She told the displaced tenants at the meeting that her office is committed “to work with the city, the state, and all of our nonprofit organizations to bring some relief.”
DeLauro said she was also speaking on behalf of her colleague, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, who was unable to attend. DeLauro and Himes share Shelton as a jurisdiction.
Officials said the blaze started in the basement of the building that has stood on Howe Avenue for more than a century. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Sweeney said the Small Business Administration “offers an array of assistance” to fire victims. “If it doesn’t reach the level of a federal disaster, there are other loans to consider.”
Sweeney said meeting face-to-face is always preferred, but said he couldn’t guarantee that solutions will be fast.
“When the smoldering is done, we will be able to see the damages and see what is insured and what is not insured,” he said.
Officials said thanks to posts on social media outlets, donations of clothing, food, household items and more started pouring into the firehouse.
Firefighter Kevin Lankowski, who is coordinating the relief efforts at the firehouse, said donations had been coming in around the clock. Huge piles of clothing, blankets, towels and more sit on long tables set up on the firehouse’s second floor.
Himes was unable to attend the meeting but his aide Tyrone McClain was there to represent him.
“We are going to do everything we can to help,” he said.
Fire Chief Francis Jones said, “It was a tremendous, heroic job by all of our firefighters. The recovery is going to be a communitywide event.”
Jones said there are “hot spots in the basement” of the burned-out building, and the fire marshal’s office is doing its “due diligence” in seeking the cause.
Michele Bialek, an owner of Liquid lunch, a restaurant at 434 Howe Ave. destroyed in the blaze, said there are ”amazing people” in the community.
“I can’t say enough about the Echo Hose firefighters,” she said.
Elaine Matto, who owns the building with her husband, Ralph Matto, said, “I’m just in awe of the firemen here. I know most of you were up all night in that horrible condition. You did save lives, and it’s totally heroic.”
Displaced tenant Bob Walden said, “I want to say thank you to all the firemen and the Red Cross.”
DeLauro said, “Our goal is to see how quickly we can get people back on their feet.”
U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, left, listens to Connecticut Small Business Administration Director Bernard Sweeney speak Tuesday to business owners displaced after Monday’s fire on Howe Avenue in Shelton. Building owner Ralph Matto is on Sweeney’s left. Patricia Villers/Register
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