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St. Johnsbury families left homeless after fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

St. Johnsbury families left homeless after fire

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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. -

A devastating fire in the Northeast Kingdom leaves some St. Johnsbury residents homeless on Christmas Eve.

It's the third major fire downtown in the last dozen years, and neighbors say without quick action from responders, the blaze would have been much worse.

Icicles hang off the charred exterior of 438 Railroad Street in Downtown St. Johnsbury, Monday.

Less than a day earlier, amateur photographers captured these stunning images as flames engulfed the residential and commercial structure originally built in 18-79.

"The first fire truck pulled up. And about 90 seconds after that, the flames started shooting out of the second floor windows," says Randall Loiacono, who witnessed the fire.

"The investigation has revealed that we had an electircal fire tha originated in the first floor studded wall," says Chief Troy Ruggles of the St. Johnsbury Fire Department, "and traveled though the walls and ceilings of the building breaking out on all the floors and onto the roof."

"I was in shock, yeah, other than that I have to plan for what I'm going to do next," says Paul Taylor, who owns Artistic Gardens, a flower shop on the building's first floor, with his wife.

He says his shop is trashed, but much of the inventory is salvageable.

The couple plans to begin looking for new building soon.

"I would like to be running by the middle of January, end of January again," he says.

A resident we spoke with off-camera says he didn't have time to grab anything before evacuating.

Neighbors credit the quick action of firefighters with saving surrounding buildings.

Chief Ruggles says spreading flames cut-off five firefighters, forcing them to jump from a third floor window to a stairwell.

"All of them have been checked by the hospital, one of them just has some mild strains and sprains but he's going to be okay,"  he says.

The fire marks the third major blaze in the city's downtown in 12 years.

In 2000, three people lost their lives on this same street, as fire consumed three buildings.

Sunday residents of three inhabited apartments escaped without significant injury.

The Red Cross has placed them in a hotel, as as they search for a new place to call home.

Both the business owner and tenant we spoke with said they do have insurance.

However, the Fire Chief tells us the building owner does not, and damage costs are estimated to be more than three quarters of a million dollars.

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