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Westerly — The cause of a fire that damaged a downtown building at 35-37 High St. early Monday morning remains under investigation.
Westerly Fire Chief John A. Mackay said three people had to be rescued from the three-story building in the downtown area. He said the building housed 16 apartments and three businesses, including Northeast Family Martial Arts, Brickhouse Cardio Club and Precision Fitness.
Mackay said ground ladders were used to rescue the three occupants because they could not safely get out of the building.
The fire, which was reported at midnight Sunday, was confined to the rear outside staircase, he said, and the damage was contained to two rear decks and four apartments. There was water and smoke damage throughout.
“The sprinklers were working, and if it weren’t for them there would have been more damage,” he said.
Mackay said the building official was going to inspect the building and determine if the occupants could return. He said it was unclear on Monday how many tenants lived in the building. The American Red Cross said they assisted 10 adults in nine families with clothing and food. Two adults needed lodging.
Mackay said two people were taken to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. No firefighters were injured.
The state fire marshal was also called to investigate the cause of the fire, he said.
On their Facebook pages, Precision Fitness and Brickhouse Cardio Club announced they would be closed Monday because of the water damage.
In addition to the Westerly department, the Pawcatuck, Stonington Borough, Wequetequock and Ashaway fire departments also responded.
Police said a Stonington police officer arrived first and attempted to enter the building with a fire extinguisher to help rescue people. The officer was examined by medical personnel as a precaution.
Land records show that the building is owned by Egidio Luzzi, whose family owns runs Northeast Family Martial Arts.