The day after voters appropriated a combined total of $65,000 for fire safety in town, we saw first-hand how this is money well spent. A fire broke out at the Newfane Café and Creamery, our local hangout where each sandwich comes with a side of news, and where, even if you enter by yourself, you never eat alone.
The fire started at the back of the building and was well under way before it was called in. The NewBrook Volunteer Fire Department, located just a half mile away, was on the scene in no time, and everyone in the restaurant and the second-floor offices evacuated safely before the fire engulfed the building completely.
High winds fanned the flames and interior cement-block walls made the fire a difficult one to knock down. All told, fire fighters and equipment from nine local fire departments helped at the scene, where the fire was ultimately contained and no one was hurt.
The effort included detouring traffic from the state highway along a narrow dirt road. As is often the case in times of disaster, people behaved better than usual. Under normal circumstances, drivers speed through the village. On the night of this fire, however, drivers helped one another navigate the narrow riverside road, pulling over at the narrowest places to allow those on the river side to pass without rolling down the bank.
The next day, we sighed with relief: no one was hurt and the fire was contained. We felt gratitude and pride in our local volunteer fire fighters. This was quickly followed by an outpouring of support for the business owners and workers displaced by the fire. Newfane Anew, the local business organization, started a gofundme campaign, and that Sunday, they organized a fundraiser at The Four Columns, the recently reopened inn.
Despite the total loss of the building, the mood at the event was celebratory and upbeat – a party as well as a fundraiser. Yes, we lost a vibrant community gathering place as well as a really good place to eat, but we’re also a community that manages property loss with spirit, most recently in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. Property, we’ve learned, can be replaced; we know how to rebuild. Even businesses come and go – and we’re glad to have The Four Columns open again.
But we were nevertheless soberly reminded of how little property matters when compared to life. We were saddened beyond words by a house fire the following Monday, in which two sisters died from smoke inhalation before the volunteer fire brigades could arrive at the scene.
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