"They say that life flashes before your eyes-- it does," Miles "Skip" Pratico said.
Pratico said he feels happy to be alive as he surveyed what's left of his Pratico's Landscaping and Fence business, and passers-by and friends stopped by to see for themselves. He says Wednesday around 5 p.m. fire broke out at the structure on Route 7 and Lincoln Avenue, but right before that, Pratico says it was just a routine day.
"I was working up in the attic putting materials away and getting ready for spring, heard the smoke detector going off and I turned to the stairwell," Pratico said.
Then he saw the smoke and flames, and realized that his beloved business was being destroyed.
"Thirty-five years of work, to get to this point, was going up in flames," he said.
It turns out he spent 30 years as firefighter and he knew he didn't stand a chance against the blaze.
"I was like a man on an island," he said. "I had nothing."
So Pratico made a move to save his life and headed to a second-floor hayloft door that used to sit at the east side of the structure and he estimates to be about 15 feet off the ground.
"I opened the door and jumped out," he said. "My instincts stepped up and you know, I did what I had to do to survive."
As firefighters fought the blaze Wednesday, they said a fire this size would be a total loss.
"It looks like it right now. We are bringing in an excavator to clean up what's left," Rutland Town Assistant Fire Chief Nick Denardo said Wednesday.
Pratico says some items he lost had sentimental value and can never be replaced.
"I lost a lot of great pictures of my grandmother, grandfather that were hand painted. I lost numerous pictures of my father and his mother," he said.
Praticos has operated in Rutland for 35 years and in this location for six. Pratico says he plans to rebuild and be ready in time for spring.
"I'll make it work," he said. "I've got a lot of support from everybody already around Rutland City and Rutland County."
Officials say the fire is not suspicious, and is likely due to a malfunctioning heater. When we stopped by, Pratico was already having meetings with insurance representatives and others regarding rebuilding the structure. He says he can't wait to start building back the business he loves.