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Financial worries in Brattleboro following a devastating fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Financial worries in Brattleboro following a devastating fire

Brattleboro, Vermont - April 19, 2011

People of Brattleboro stopped, pointed and stared at an empty space that used to be their emblem.

"People were looking at this building as a member of our family, as a member of the Brattleboro community and saying please, we know that this was hard for you, we'll help you get better and we want you to get better," said Jerry Goldberg of the Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce.

Fire officials say the integrity of the building is sound; they plan to remove the penthouse section of the fourth floor and keep everything else intact if possible. Chief Michael Bucossi confirmed an accidental electrical issue caused the blaze that displaced residents from 59 apartments. It also closed 10 businesses in the heart of downtown.

"I enjoyed living there because it was a part of history," Deanna Garcia said.

Garcia lived in the Brooks House on Main Street for four years. Now her home is the Red Cross disaster relief center down the block. The Red Cross arrived within hours of Sunday night's fire that virtually shut down downtown.

While the east side of Main Street opened to foot traffic Tuesday, the west side and Main Street remained closed. Business owners like Richard French worry the lack of traffic will hurt business downtown. French's cafe, the Works, shares a wall with the Brooks House.

"We had water damage on the retail floor here and quite a bit of water in our basement," French said.

Despite some water damage, French reopened the restaurant Tuesday.

"Today looks like we'll be at half of our regular sales and don't know tomorrow and the next few days out. I think a lot of it is dependent on what happens on Main Street," he said.

"Foot traffic is going to be a major problem," Goldberg said. "We're heading into a season sort of soon, if it ever happens, where we want people to be here."

Goldberg says the emotional impact rivals the economic blow. He worries the empty storefronts will keep visitors out of the downtown area.

"We have an interesting story to tell, so it's going to be difficult on businesses and some businesses of course as you can imagine won't open for the season," he said.

Goldberg says they're thankful no one was hurt in the fire, so they have the luxury of worrying about the economic impact. Investigators have yet to release the estimated cost of rebuilding the historic Brooks House.

Susie Steimle - WCAX News

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Fire rips through downtown Brattleboro building

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