Fire Destroys Downtown Block in Enosburg, Vermont

ENOSBURG, Vt. (AP) -- A massive fire ripped through an historic downtown block Wednesday, destroying buildings and several businesses.

The fire broke out around 10:30 a.m. in the DePatie block on Main Street.

The 110-year-old buildings housed furniture, clothing and jewelry stores, a restaurant, offices and six apartments on the second floor.

Witnesses said the fire took over the block within minutes. A cloud of black smoke was visible from miles away. A shop owner saw a man hanging from a second floor window to escape the fire and called for help.

It's bad,'' Town Clerk Carolyn Stimpson said Wednesday afternoon. ``The tops of the buildings are gone. It sure looks like a total loss.''

Firefighters fought the blaze from outside the building for nearly four hours, while residents and business owners watched the block burn.

Sandra Ferland, owner of Precious Things jewelry store, watched from across the street.

``I've been in that room every day since January 22 in 1981,'' she told WCAX-TV.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or the cause of the fire. Officials said the fire started on the second floor.

``They said they'd been waiting for it (a fire) a long time because it's an old block, but we didn't expect it to go this fast, not at all,'' said Teresa Michael, owner of Modern Furniture, in the building where the fire started.

The fire was largely extinguished by Wednesday afternoon, and the Merchants Bank next door to the burning block was saved. Crews continued to work into the night, dousing the fire and removing debris.

Gov. James Douglas visited Enosburg Wednesday night to view the damage.

It's very devastating to Enosburg,'' he said. ``In addition to the physical loss, there are so many memories there. It's emotional for people in the area.''

Many fire department fought the fire, including two from Quebec and one from Chitteden County.

The Red Cross was helping the tenants of the apartments find temporary housing.