While the investigation is only beginning, initial indications are that the massive fire in downtown Shelton this morning may have started in the basement of one of the structures in the affected city block.
“We’re thinking it started in the basement, but we’re not sure,” Shelton Fire Department spokesman Nick Verdicchio said about 10 hours after the fire started, when firefighting operations were beginning to wind down.
The fire appears to have destroyed an entire city block on Howe Avenue between Center Street and Bridge Street/Viaduct Square, on the Coram Avenue side. The block includes a series of structures with such businesses as Liquid Lunch and Howe Convenient on the first floor as well as offices and residences on upper floors.
‘Never seen anything like it’
Shelton resident Scott Bigletti, a freelance photographer who operates Candid Moments Photography, was among those who went to the scene. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Bigletti, who took photos of the fire’s aftermath that he provided to the Shelton Herald.
“This is probably the biggest fire in Shelton since Sponge Rubber,” said Bigletti, referring to the 1975 arson blaze that destroyed a sprawling downtown factory along the Housatonic River.
The Sponge Rubber site is now Veterans Memorial Park and is home to the Riverwalk, and often is called “The Slab” by many longtime residents.
Bigletti said he also remembers the fire in the early 1990s that destroyed the Boys & Girls Club on Howe Avenue at Center Street (where The Ripton senior housing complex now is located), as well as a later fire that destroyed three small retail structures catty-corner from the old Boys & Girls Club site (directly across Howe Avenue from Dunkin’ Donuts).