September 26, 2023

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MERIDEN — Firefighters rescued one woman from an early morning New Year’s Day fire at a condominium complex that appears to have started in a car parked below the building, a fire official said.

Fire Chief Kenneth Morgan said crews responded around 5 a.m. to a blaze at 62 Woodland Ridge that initially was called in by a neighbor as a car fire.

Morgan said that a woman was rescued by ladder from the second floor of the condominium. She was uninjured, and was not transported to a hospital. Initially crews believed there was another occupant unaccounted for, but Morgan said it was soon resolved that that person had not been at the condominium at the time.

Another occupant of the adjoining condominium at 60 Woodland Ridge had gotten out of her house safely, Morgan said.

“She has five cats, two of which we could find at the time, but we don’t believe any were injured, just really good at hiding, which is something we see a lot in these types of situations,” Morgan said.

Five fire engines and a fire truck responded to the scene, and firefighters got the blaze under control within five minutes, Morgan said.

The fire was largely contained to the outside of the structure, Morgan said, leaving minimal damage inside. Portions of the roof had be removed however, so firefighters could access void spaces within the walls and eves of the house. 62 Woodland Ridge was deemed unfit for occupancy Thursday. At least one of those occupants is staying with family in the meantime, Deputy Fire Marshal John Yacovino said.

The adjacent unit at 60 Woodland Ridge sustained minor smoke and water damage, and firefighters had to cut into portions of the ceiling and walls in some rooms, but it is otherwise inhabitable, Yacovino said.

By this afternoon, the owner of the damaged condominium had returned to salvage some of his belongings from inside. He declined to comment. A friend of his, who was helping to move things out, said that the owner was “obviously shaken.”

A neighbor who lives across the street said she was awoken by a loud “boom,” then saw a fire coming from the engine of a Cadillac Escalade parked in the driveway. She asked to remain anonymous, but identified herself as the one who made the 911 call.

Yacovino said the investigation — completed by Thursday afternoon — showed definitively that the blaze began in the engine of the truck, and was not considered suspicious.

“He had been having issues with the brakes, the car had been to the shop a few times in the past couple months,” Yacovino said.

The truck was parked under an overhanging second-floor balcony.

“It’s all wood there. It went up so fast,” the neighbor said. “We were on pins and needles just worried about those poor people, I’m so thankful they all got out OK.”

The neighbor’s daughter said that the owner had just finished renovating the inside of the house.

“They put in all new windows, everything,” she said. “That’s awful to lose all that, but honestly all this stuff is replaceable,” she said, gesturing toward the charred condominium. “The most important thing is that everyone is safe. That, you can’t replace.”

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