Officials investigate cause of Park Street fire

The New Haven Fire Department is currently investigating the cause of a fire that significantly damaged a building on Park Street Sunday, forcing its tenants — including two Yale students — to find other lodging while the building is repaired.

Yale Deputy Fire Marshall Michael Fox said Monday that officials have not yet determined the cause of Sunday’s fire, which occurred around 11:50 a.m. at 202 Park St. He said the fire, which was extinguished in 20 minutes, probably started on the first floor of the house.

Antuan Cannon ’06, who lived in the building, said the fire alarm system in the house was broken and failed to alert the residents when the fire began.

Cannon said he, his girlfriend and his roommate, Tim Polmateer ’06, evacuated the building more than 20 minutes after the fire broke out because there was no alarm to warn them of the impending danger.

“It took us so long to get out because there were absolutely no alarms going on,” Cannon said. “Had this been in the middle of the night, we may not have woken up.”

Polmateer, a former Photography Editor for the News, said he lost most of his possessions in the fire, which he said left his room looking like an “ash pile.” Polmateer and Cannon said they are currently considering suing the building’s landlord for improper maintenance of the fire alarm system.

The building’s landlord, Robert Lasa, could not be reached for comment this week.

All of the building’s residents eventually evacuated the building, Fox said. No one was seriously injured in the fire, but two New Haven firefighters were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital after showing signs of smoke inhalation. Fox said they were released the same day.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Fox said. “The outside [of the building] was made of brick, so it did not burn as much as it could have.”

Polmateer said the majority of the 15 tenants displaced by the fire were immigrants with limited knowledge of English. Most of them, he said, lived on the first floor and lost all of their possessions. He said the Red Cross is temporarily housing these tenants until they can find better housing.

“Their situation is worse that ours,” he said. “They’re basically homeless right now.”

Polmateer and Cannon are living with friends until the end of the year. They were asked to return to their charred apartment Tuesday to pick up any belongings that were spared by the fire. Cannon was able to salvage some of his possessions, but Polmateer said he lost almost everything of his own.

Polmateer and Cannon said they were grateful that the Yale community and their student friends have come forward to find them accommodations until the end of the school year. Other tenants, they said, will have to wait until Lasa begins to repair the building.

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