Discarded butts from a smoke break Tuesday led to a shivering extended outdoor break for workers in a historic downtown building, as firefighters rushed in to prevent serious damage and downtown traffic was diverted.
The extended smoke break occurred around noon Tuesday at the old Timothy Bishop House at 32 Elm St. between Orange and State. The historic building now houses the offices of attorney Ira B. Grudberg, State Marshal Robert Miller, and Dr. Gordon Weiss. Someone smelled smoke there. Within minutes crews from the Whitney Avenue, Goffe Street, and Grand Avenue fire station arrived on scene.
They checked the front ...
... the back ...
... and the basement, and finally located the source of the smell: cigarette butts discarded in a can outside the building. The smoldering butts caught on the building and sent smoke inside, according to Acting Deputy Chief Patrick Andrews, who was on the scene.
Firefighter James Sorrentino hacked at the molding at the back entrance while other firefighters brought in a hose. Then they shot water down into the gap to douse any remaining embers.
The building was constructed in 1816. Houses from that era often were constructed with “balloon frames” that make it easy for flames to rise quickly through the void, Andrews said.
So, even though the smoke came from the basement and hadn’t spread throughout the building, Firefighter Wayne Ricks Jr. was up in the bucket truck to check the roof, just in case.
The office workers watched and tried to keep warm, as the firefighters wrapped up their work and the street was reopened to traffic in time for the second part of lunch hour.