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Officials assess fire damage to Vt. landmark

Future uncertain for Brooks House

A firefighter battled flames at a 5-alarm fire in the historic 59-unit Brooks House building Sunday in downtown Brattleboro, Vt. A firefighter battled flames at a 5-alarm fire in the historic 59-unit Brooks House building Sunday in downtown Brattleboro, Vt. (Jason Henske/ Brattleboro Fire Department via Associated Press)
Associated Press / April 19, 2011

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BRATTLEBORO — Main Street remained closed to traffic yesterday while officials assessed the damage to the historic Brooks House building that was heavily damaged by an overnight fire.

It appeared that 53 of the 59 residences in the five-story building were occupied, although it is unclear how many people were left homeless by the 5-alarm fire, which was reported at about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, officials said.

The fire was discovered on the fourth floor and spread to the fifth. Fire departments and emergency crews from New Hampshire and Massachusetts also responded to the fire, which was not fully contained until 6 a.m.

Fire crews remained on the scene throughout the day.

“It’s a really tough blow for Brattleboro,’’ said Governor Peter Shumlin, who toured the scene yesterday.

“Initially, there was talk of tearing the structure down, but the governor and others urged the owner to keep the building intact and seriously focus on renovating the historic structure, which has a brick exterior,’’ said Susan Allen, Shumlin’s spokeswoman, who visited with him.

State housing and development officials were in Brattleboro to help determine the extent of the damage and the options for redevelopment and finding the displaced residents a place to live, Allen said.

Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries. Shumlin called it extraordinary that no one inside was injured.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.