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Bella Vista Fire Displaces Hundreds
by Cora Lewis | Aug 14, 2013 3:16 pm
Posted to: The Heights
As New Haven—and Eileen Longo—slept, Isabella started “screaming bloody blue murder.” That awoke Longo to the smoke filling her living room.
Now Longo, who is 64 years old and has lived at the Bella Vista complex on the east side of town for 12 years, and Isabella, her shorthair cat, have to find a new place to live for a while. Along with hundreds of other folks.
The 3:45 a.m. three-alarm fire Wednesday caused extensive damage to 19-story building D, one of five towers at Bella Vista, which houses seniors and disabled people.
“There was a lot of black smoke. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” said Longo. Once Isabella woke her, Longo covered her mouth with a damp cloth and walked down the 15 flights of stairs from her apartment to safety, carrying her dog, Abbey, for half of the journey. Isabella remained upstairs.
Firefighters arrived and put out the electrical fire, which spread from the 10th to the 14th floor, in about 45 minutes.
Two firefighters, including one lieutenant, were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor burns. Seven Bella Vista seniors were hospitalized due to difficulty breathing or anxiety. Many people were advised to stay in their rooms and place towels under their doors.
Lucille Remington, 67, who lives on the 15th floor and who has lived at Bella Vista for nearly five years, said she noticed something wrong when her television went off and the alarm sounded. Remington put a towel under her door and fell back asleep until 8 am.
Building D has 324 apartments. It lost power in the fire.
Building C also lost power, which has since been restored. Residents began to move back in to this building mid-afternoon Wednesday.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people from Building D have to find new housing for about a week. Some 171 apartments are without power, according to mayoral spokeswoman Anna Mariotti. Families living in another 47 apartments will have a longer wait to return because of fire, smoke or water damage from the fire.
Officials said power will not be restored to the north side of the building for several days. The owner of the apartments, Carabetta Enterprises, will find transportation and temporary housing elsewhere for displaced residents with nowhere else to go.
Longo said she will stay with her son, who lives in West Haven.
At a 12:30 p.m. press briefing, Fire Chief Michael Grant described the blaze as a “hot, smoky fire.”
Mayor John DeStefano (pictured) hung around speaking with tenants before the press conference. “It’s like spending time with a hundred of your favorite grandparents,” he said.
As they waited to return to their apartments, sitting and smoking Newports, seniors described some of their fears.
“Is this going to affect our TVs?” asked Rose DiMarzo, who lives on the first floor.
Longo said she worried for friends who don’t have relatives to stay with, because some hotels don’t allow pets.
Alderwoman Barbara Constantinople, who is 73 and lives in Bella Vista, reported that Bill Johnson, the building manager, brought people coffee and donuts early in the morning while they waited to be allowed back into their apartments. Later on, they received scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, and toast. A firefighter helped her back to her apartment when she needed to take her medicine. She has lived in the towers for a decade.
Throughout the morning, firefighters escorted residents back up to their apartments to retrieve medication, clothing, and pets.
Mary Marcucci, a woman dressed in a bright lime sweater and bedazzled sunglasses, who has lived in the complex for 20 years, said that water from the sprinklers and firemen’s hoses seeped into the kitchen of her rooms on the second floor.
Firefighters searched all the building’s apartments. In the morning, as building D was searched, they came across the body of a 74-year-old woman DeStefano said had died early from causes unrelated to the fire.
Anyone seeking information about relatives or friends in the tower can call 203-982-1388 or 203-537-4046.
Tags: Bella Vista, fire
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