The bodies of two children have been found following a massive fire that broke out at a historic multi-family home on Prospect Street in Putnam just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
For more than five hours, firefighters from a number of departments attacked the fire at the old Victorian home, which was built by silk manufacturer George Hammond in 1867.
James Martin lives next door and said he was just getting ready to go to bed when he saw an orange glow through his blinds.
"I ran to the blinds and as I'm walking up to the window, I hear a banging," Martin said. "I thought it was my house. I opened the window and saw the whole back side of the home was engulfed and called 911."
Putnam's fire marshal said the house, which was built in 1876 and was nearly 5,000 square feet, went up quickly with flames filling the third floor.
"The assistant chief made his best effort to make it up to the third floor where the individuals were," Putnam Fire Marshal Norm Perron said.
Two young children, who were 6 months old and 3 years old, were still inside the home and a rescue team tried getting in, but were forced to retreat because of the thick smoke and heavy flames.
"The mother was screaming that her children were still in the house," Perron said.
The names of the children have not been released at this time.
The five-family home was so badly damaged, state police and firefighters spent much of the day just trying to get to the third floor where the children were trapped. Contractors had to be brought in to shore up the third floor.
"It's just heartbreaking and devastating to fathom," said Putnam Mayor Peter Place.
The roof eventually collapsed onto the third floor.
The mother of the two young children, who is pregnant, was brought to UMass Medical Center in Worcester, MA.
Three other men were brought to Day Kimball Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, but have since been released.
Local and state fire investigators are sifting through what's left of the home, even using a ladder truck to get an overhead view of the home.
"We're also looking for smoke detectors," Perron said. "Were they there, were they operating, were they functional?"
As fire investigators piece together the tragic scene, neighbors can only think of the family and the lives that were turned upside down in an instant.
"My heart goes out to them and all the families that are suffering through this," Martin said.
The mayor called it a sad day for Putnam. The community is already gathering to help and mourners stopped by Tuesday afternoon to pay their respects.
"There's really nothing else you can say when you lose two children," said mourner Gary Roy. "I don't know what they're going through. I don't really want to know what they're going through."
The town's local radio station, WINY, said a fund is being established to assist the families affected by the fire.
WINY said the Prospect Street Fire Fund has been set up at Putnam Bank, and donations are being accepted at all Putnam Bank locations.
Checks can be made payable to the Prospect Street Fire Fund, C/O Putnam Bank.
According to fire officials, all five units of this home that were occupied were badly damaged and more than a dozen people have been displaced.
The American Red Cross is assisting six people who were without a home Tuesday night. In total, five adults and one child are being assisted with food and clothing needs.
"The Red Cross will continue to meet with families needing help in the wake of the fire," said American Red Cross spokesperson Paul Shipman.
Building Supply in Woodstock set up a location where people can drop off clothes and other supplies for the families who lost everything.
The fire remains under investigation by the State Police Fire and Explosion Detectives and Eastern District Major Crime Detectives, along with the Putnam Fire Marshal, Connecticut State Police and Putnam Police Department.
The Putnam Fire Marshal is examining the structure to see if there was any building code violations.
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