NEW HARTFORD — The New Hartford House, a building on Bridge Street built in the 1890s, was demolished Wednesday, a day after a devastating fire.
The cause of the fire, during which Burlington firefighter and EMT Colin McFadden, suffered a medical emergency, remains under investigation, officials said. McFadden, a 6-year member of the Burlington Volunteer Fire Department, “became suddenly ill at a fire,” officials said in a statement Wednesday.
McFadden received immediate medical care and was taken to John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington. “There he underwent emergency surgery and is currently in critical condition in the intensive care unit,” Burlington Fire Chief Michael Boucher said in the statement. “During his care and treatment, McFadden’s medical team discovered a previously undiagnosed medical condition that caused this sudden illness.”
On Wednesday, as a steady stream of residents came to watch the demolition, with cell phones in hand, a member of Environmental Services from South Windsor manned a bulldozer.
The bulldozer driver crushed debris on the ground before raising a bucket attachment as high as the third-story portico and knocking it from its perch, sending it crashing into the shell of the building behind it.
Then, methodically, the machine operator pushed the bucket into the first and second levels. The air was filled with the roar of machinery and the sounds of breaking glass and falling bricks and wood as the structure fell to the ground.
Fire Marshal Robert Diorio said earlier Wednesday that they had decided to raze the building after it was severely damaged by a three-alarm fire early Tuesday. The blaze, which drew fire companies from in and round New Hartford, left the Burlington firefighter critically injured and the historic building a shell, according to officials.
The decision to tear down the building wasn’t made lightly, according to Diorio and First Selectman Dan Jerram.
“The decision was made by the state fire marshal’s office, experts, myself, the building inspector and town engineers. This wasn’t a rushed decision. This was a very hard decision. It took many, many hours with everybody on board. This is a landmark for us,” Diorio said.
“But unfortunately, that’s the decision that was made,” he said. “None of us are happy with it. If there was a way we could have saved the building, we would have saved it.”
Town leaders met for several hours early Tuesday to come to the decision.
“We all agreed that it was just not safe, and that we had to do what we had to do,” Jerram said. “There was some talk about saving the facade, but there was no way to do that. It was leaning against the town hall ... the only path forward was to demolish it.”
According to Diorio, the owner of the building, Duhval Patel, who took it over about a month ago, “intends to totally rebuild the building in the same historic way that it was.”
Patel could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Jerram said they idea about rebuilding the New Hartford House is a dream at this point, and something that the town will consider. “This town will be accommodating and willing to consider any proposal for this property,” he said. “Obviously, we can’t think about the future.
“Right now we have to focus on safety,” the first selectman said. “We’re just thankful that no one else was hurt, and nobody lost their life. We’re still dealing with the tragedy of the fire.”
Fire officials remain on the scene and the road is still closed.
The building that burned down Tuesday was a rebuild in 1897 or 1898, according to town historian Anne Hall. The original structure from the 1700s had burned in a prior fire, and the brick building “was actually two buildings that were put together,” Hall said.
The American Red said Wednesday that it is helping eleven families, including 13 adults and two children after the fire, by providing “assistance to meet the families’ immediate needs.”
The Red Cross provided a “recovery envelope containing information helpful to families recovering from a fire, including tips on cleanup; notification of important contacts; dealing with damaged items, and more,” as well as comfort kits containing personal care items, the agency said in an email.
Hands of Grace, a mission of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Hartford, is offering donations of food, clothing and small household goods to those who have been displaced by the fire. Call 860-738-0299.
Boucher also noted that the statewide “blood supply is critical to Firefighter McFadden’s continued care and successful recovery,” and that the state’s “blood supply is seriously low to the point it is impacting hospitals.”
“Everyone has been asking how they can help… you can help by donating blood as soon as possible, in order to stabilize our states blood supply, not only for Colin, but for all who are in need,” the chief said.
Well wishes can be sent to McFadden at: Colin McFadden c/o Burlington Fire P.O. Box 1285 Burlington, 060132