Fire displaces at least 21 in Pawcatuck

May 25—STONINGTON — One person was taken to the hospital and at least 21 people were displaced by a fire Thursday morning at a 24-unit building for the elderly and disabled in Pawcatuck.

The 1 a.m. fire severely damaged one apartment at the Brookside Village Apartments off Route 1. Pawcatuck Fire Chief Kevin Burns said Stonington police, responding to a fire alarm at building No. 108, were first to arrive and helped evacuate most of the occupants of the apartment building. Brookside Village is home to 90 apartments and 70 multi-family townhouses, according to its website.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Burns said it appears to be accidental and started when a couch in second-floor apartment burned.

Pawcatuck firefighters arrived shortly after police and worked through thick black smoke on the second floor of the building to rescue a blind resident trapped in his apartment. The man, whose unit is close to the one that burned, was taken to Westerly Hospital for evaluation and possible treatment of smoke inhalation.

Pawcatuck firefighters, joined by firefighters from the Westerly, Wequetequock and Stonington Borough fire departments, were able to stop the spread of the fire, Burns said. A portion of the apartment building, however, sustained smoke and water damage.

Personnel from Stonington Human Services and the Red Cross worked together to find a temporary place to stay for about 21 of the displaced residents. Others found a place to stay with family or friends.

Amanda Davis, human services specialist for Stonington Human Services, said the displaced residents were housed within a matter of a few hours ― no small feat for such a large number of people, some of whom had cats. Stonington Human Services has a relocation plan in place and relationships with nearby hotels. The residents are spread across three nearby hotels and all received gift cards and cash vouchers for emergency needs.

"Stonington is very, very lucky to have this department and the services we provide," Davis said. "I'm just so glad everyone was able to get out safely. That's the most important thing."

It remains unclear when residents might be able to move back into their apartments. Crews from Servicemaster by Mason were working Thursday to assess the damage. Servicemaster co-owner Ryan Mason said crews will get to work patching the ventilation hole cut in the roof of the building by firefighters and drape a tarp to protect the fire-damaged portion of the building.

Mason said the one side of the building containing about 16 undamaged units is likely to be the first reopened to residents. Crews are expected to spend the day cleaning up debris to ensure entrances are open and the air in the entire building is deodorized and purified.