NEW: Three Adults Displaced After Green Street Fire

A vacant, historic home was destroyed as the two-alarm fire spread next door Thursday afternoon in Middletown.

UPDATED 9:45 p.m.

The American Red Cross is helping three adults in two families after a fire Thursday afternoon at 31 Green Street in Middletown. The Red Cross is providing temporary lodging and financial assistance for emergency food needs — all free of charge.

Kits containing age- and gender-appropriate personal care items like toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items. 

Original story:

Fifty firefighters from three towns battled a stubborn fire in a vacant two-family home on Green Street Thursday afternoon.

The two-alarm blaze, which started at about 2 p.m., caused extensive damage to the two-story, two-family home at 31 Green St., and spread to a rear garage and a neighboring property before being brought under control. There were no injuries reported, although an elderly woman had to be evacuated from 29 Green Street.

Firefighers vented the roof three times. The entire rear of the house, where the fire appears to have started, was a charred mess and vinyl siding was blackened and melted off closest to the fire. Two tower trucks were employed to spray the buildings with water.

The fire took place just down from Wesleyan University's Green Street Arts Center and two condominiums that are being rehabilitated. Green Street is also where Nehemiah Housing Corp. has rehabbed homes and sold them to first-time homebuyers with the help of the North End Action Team.

As the fire progressed, it spread to the home's rear garage and to a four-family home at 29 Green St. where, witnesses said, a man lives on the third floor and an elderly woman on the first. That home, built in 1900, is owned by Dpix LLC of Arbutus Street and valued at $214,000, according to the Middletown assessor's database.

Firefighters said in the initial sweep of the 31 Green St., no one was inside. The house is valued at $261,000 and owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association out of Dallas, according to the assessor.

By 2:53 p.m., firefighters could be seen inside 31 Green St. venting the roof through the attic and breaking windows on the front and side. The blaze was knocked down by 3:15 p.m.

Firetrucks and two CL&P trucks were on standby on Main, Ferry and deKoven streets.

The fire was reported by three laborers who were remodeling the five apartments next door to 29 Green Street who called 911 after seeing a small blaze.

“I walked down the porch, it caught my eye, a little fire; by the time we called 911 (and) looked again — whoosh!” said Ray, who declined to give his last name.

“When it hit those power wires, it sounded like fireworks, then her house caught on fire and the old lady wouldn’t leave,” Ray said, gesturing to a co-worker, Bruce. “He’s trying to pull her out of the apartment.”

“She was clueless,” Bruce said of the 70-year-old woman. “I went in there.”

“She looked, she saw her house on fire, she walked back in like, ‘I gotta watch General Hospital' and she went back in,” Ray said.

Bruce said he finally got her to leave by saying, “Your house is on fire. If you want to die, just stay here.”

Ray said at first the fire was the size of a breadbox, but when firefighters arrived within five minutes, “it was totally engulfed,” with flames 30 to 40 feet high.

The cause of the fire was not known, but three witnesses said they saw a teenage boy running fast from the area of the rear porch toward Wharfside Commons just before police and fire arrived.

Trucks from Westfield, Middletown, South Fire, Portland and Cromwell fire departments responded.

Liz Warner wrote about 31 Green St. in August, when it was auctioned off while in foreclosure. Bidding began at $65,000 for the house and its rear garage.

"The main house, closest to the road, was used as a rental property for most of its life. The building behind it appears to have been a wagon shed or carriage house that was later converted to a dwelling," Warner wrote.

She wrote, "with this evidence, we can conclude that the main house and its associated rear building were built between 1825 and 1859, and architectual evidence suggests that circa 1850 is a realistic date."

"The rear structure, particularly, provides it best clue from its side profile. Although one might think it is a Colonial-era saltbox, the proportions are wrong for an 18th-century house of that type. Its steep roof line is characteristic of outbuildings constructed in the mid-19th century to house wagons and carriages."

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