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Firefighters battle blaze at East Lyme shopping plaza, rescue resident

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East Lyme — More than 20 fire trucks from Mystic to Old Lyme rushed here late Monday afternoon to battle a three-alarm fire at a shopping center and apartment complex.

No one was injured in the blaze, which badly damaged several apartments located on the second floor of the Midway Shopping Plaza at 170 Flanders Road.

Firefighters initially responded to a report of a fire with a person possibly trapped inside at 4:49 p.m. East Lyme police Chief Mike Finkelstein said firefighters had to force their way inside to remove a resident who needed help getting out of one of the apartments.

East Lyme dispatchers fielded 43 emergency calls about the fire, according to Finkelstein.

"Fairly soon into it, it was a working fire," he said.

Of the eight apartments, several appeared to be damaged by the fire. Finkelstein said at least three families were displaced.

Retired state trooper Tony Buglione, who owns Weight No Longer on the ground level of the plaza with his wife, said he was one of the people who reported the fire, which he initially thought was coming from a dumpster. He got closer to find flames coming from the far right second-story apartment. He said at least one small dog was rescued from the building.

"Now we've got to pray our business isn't ruined," Buglione said.

At 5:45 p.m. flames were still coming from the roof. Plaza owners Joseph and Michele DiBuono of Waterford were on scene at the building, which Buglione said had been renovated a year or two ago.

At about 6:15 p.m., Fire Marshal John Way said firefighters were in the overhaul phase of their operations as they searched for any hidden fires or smoldering areas. He said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire, but it appears to have started in the second floor apartments.

As temperatures hovered around 20 degrees, firefighters could be seen slipping on the icy parking lot before a truck came through spreading salt.

Flanders Road was still closed as of 7:45 p.m. from the Stop and Shop supermarket to Society Road.

In addition to the Flanders and Niantic fire departments, firefighters responded from nearby communities such as Mystic, Groton, New London, Waterford, Montville and Old Lyme.

Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule, who said he came by to support the neighboring town of East Lyme, said the fire was an example of "communities coming together to help each other."

e.regan@theday.com

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