Valley neighbors band together to help Shelton fire victims

CAFCA | February 05, 2014 |

Barely two weeks after a swift-moving fire destroyed a landmark building in downtown Shelton and 25 apartments within it, most of the displaced tenants are in new, furnished housing.

Of the 23 affected households with a total of  30 people burned out in the Jan. 6 fire, seven have moved into new housing and seven more are in the process of reviewing leases, said Richard Knoll, executive director of TEAM Inc.

Four other households are eligible for assistance from the U.S. Veterans Administration or other programs for military veterans, and TEAM Inc. continues to help the remaining families find new housing.

TEAM, the Derby-based community action agency, also coordinated with the state Department of Social Services, which operates a security deposit assistance program, Knoll said.

Members of the Echo Hose Hook and Ladder Co., just up the hill from the 135 year-old former Kreiger building at 434 Howe Avenue, coordinated relief efforts, including a clothing drive.

Clothes for displaced residents were also collected at the St. Vincent dePaul Society on Roosevelt Drive in Derby; excess donations were provided to My Sister’s Place, an Ansonia thrift store that assists domestic violence victims throughout the lower Naugatuck Valley.

Furniture donations for the displaced Howe Avenue residents were being accepted at Conti Storage on West Canal Street in Shelton. Knoll said that all of the furniture needs of the tenants affected by the Howe Avenue fire have now been met.

The Oxford Academy of Hair Design held a Cut-A-Thon on Thursday to raise funds for the fire victims and also accepted donations of non-perishable food items, adult clothing, blankets, toiletries, and gift cards to grocery and other local stores, for the displaced tenants.

Fire Marshal James Tortora said on Tuesday that the debris from the burned-out structure will be carted off once the owner’s insurance carrier makes the arrangements.

The site is secured by fencing. “It’s been cordoned off and we are through there ourselves, the fire marshal said.

Although no definite cause has been determined the investigated concluded that it was not an arson. “This was not a suspicious origin,” Tortora said.

Tortora said he, his deputy, five members of the state fire marshal’s office and insurance investigators spent five days sifting through the debris.

They determined the blaze started in the basement, somewhere between Howe Convenient and Dollar Chest — two street-level stores.

The collapse of the upper floors of the building shortly after the early-morning blaze broke out made the investigation difficult, offficials said.