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Fire destroys businesses in New Haven
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New Haven Mayor John De Stefano: Photo: Diane OrsonNew Haven Mayor John De Stefano: Photo: Diane OrsonA three-alarm fire in downtown New Haven yesterday destroyed several businesses and forced the evacuation of nearly 100 residential units.

The fire was first reported at about 6:30 Wednesday morning on the downtown New Haven block flanked by Church, Chapel, Orange and Center streets. Its an area that’s begun to attract developers. 14 retail businesses operate on the block. Most of the buildings date back to the early 1900s.

"We do expect to have some of the buildings to be a total loss," New Haven mayor John De Stefano said.

Standing near the scene, New Haven mayor John De Stefano said some buildings will have to be demolished. At least 5 businesses were destroyed.

"On Chapel Street, severely damaged or lost are Expressions and Mad Rag, New Haven furniture’s gonna look like a loss and on Center Street, Brass Monkey," De Stefano said.

Officials don’t know what caused the blaze, but say it began in the center of the block. New Haven fire chief Michael Grant says firefighters started with an interior attack, but soon realized they had to change their strategy.

"It was too dangerous at that point, so the chiefs on the fire made the decision to withdraw the troops and we went to plan B at that point and that was to contain the fire in the building of origin and that’s what we did," Grant said.New Haven Fire, Corner of Chapel and Church Streets: Photo: Diane OrsonNew Haven Fire, Corner of Chapel and Church Streets: Photo: Diane Orson

11 of New Haven’s 12 engine companies battled the blaze with more than 60 firefighters and 50 police officers on the scene. At one point firefighters were spraying nearly 4,000 gallons of water a minute. North Haven firefighters were called in to cover other parts of the city while New Haven units fought the fire. Regan Kirk was among the residents evacuated.

"Fortunately my roommate thought to bring her wallet and everything so we actually went and grabbed breakfast and came back to observe. They closed off the street and then were three hoses that were spraying into the building next door," Kirk said.

There were no injuries. Some residential units may have smoke damage. Residents will be allowed to return home once sprinkler and fire emergency systems are operating.

See more pictures of the New Haven fire on WNPR's Flickr page.