The man left homeless by a fire at an apartment complex in Simsbury on Tuesday morning told Channel 3 News exclusively that the blaze was caused by a space heater.
Firefighters and officers were called to Meadow Apartments, which is located at 51 Hopmeadow St., around 10 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters saw smoke showing from a two-story wood frame contemporary-style building, Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company posted on its Facebook page.
After firefighters started "an aggressive interior attack on the fire," crews learned that a hydrant was frozen. However, crews "were able to utilize the second hydrant nearby." The fire company also brought in a tanker.
There were no reported injuries to firefighters or civilians, police said.
Andrew Palenza said his apartment was damaged by the fire. He added that the fire started due to frozen pipes.
"Since last Friday, they came in with a torch had me plug the freakin space heater on," Palenza said. "So this morning I called after 7 and said my pipes are frozen. He said leave heater on."
Palenza said he was frantic after finding out there had been a fire in his apartment.
"He said he was going to check on it and sure enough I got a call," Palenza said. "My apartment is on fire. I have birds in there, probability dead."
Channel 3 News tried to find out about the space heater, but the property manager at the Meadow Apartment Complex told the station he was very busy. The property manager would get back to us.
At this point, fire department believes the fire started in an upstairs bathroom but the cause is under investigation.
As for space heaters, fire officials said those are big concerns with the freezing temperatures because more people are using them.
"This time of year be very cautious and proactive in terms of how you operate space heaters and any additional heaters," Simsbury Fire Assistant Chief Randy Chesanek said. "Use diligence on the conditions you have here."
The fire was knocked down in about 25 minutes, authorities said.
Freezing temperatures created several challenges for these firefighters. It was hard to be outside for long periods of time and when the water hits the ground, it was turning into ice.
Firefighters from Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Lost Acres, East Granby and Farmington departments provided mutual aid.
Police said Route 10, which is also known as Hopmeadow Street, was closed from Old Meadow Plain Road to Lincoln Lane. The road reopened around noon.
But, the hardest challenge is for Palenza, who needs a place to leave.
"I have no apartment insurance. I have nothing," Palenza said. "I haven't seen the damage yet."
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