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New London – Fire destroyed a ground floor apartment and displaced at least 15 people from a six-unit building at the Nutmeg Woods apartment complex on Thursday.
The fire appears to have originated in the kitchen at 45-1 Hawthorne Drive North, according to New London Fire Chief Henry Kydd. Firefighters arrived to find heavy black smoke enveloping the complex and that apartment fully engulfed in flames.
Ashley Gomes, a tenant in an adjoining building, said one of her neighbors banged on her apartment door yelling "fire."
"Thank God," Gomes said. "I grabbed my baby and ran down the stairs. It was just thick, dark smoke everywhere."
Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the one unit, but others in the three-story building sustained varying degrees of smoke damage.
Tenants were all evacuated and no injuries were reported.
Both of the ground-level units were immediately deemed uninhabitable, and inspectors with the fire marshal's office were checking the building for further damage Thursday afternoon.
Sue Rochester-Bolen, senior director of emergency services for the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said tenants from all six units were temporarily displaced for the night.
The Red Cross is helping 15 people – 10 adults and five children from five of the six families who were displaced. Two people have made alternative arrangements for housing, but the rest are getting help with emergency housing, food and clothing needs.
Rochester-Bolen said property management at Nutmeg Woods has offered to meet with some of the displaced families on Friday in an effort to help them relocate into other units within the complex.
New London firefighters were joined at the scene by firefighter assistance teams from the Naval Submarine Base and Norwich fire departments.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the city's fire marshal's office.