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Early morning fire damages The Marina

BRATTLEBORO—An early morning fire Friday heavily damaged The Marina restaurant on Putney Road.

No injuries were reported.

“It’s surreal,” said Jill Johnson, wife of Marina owner Dennis Smith.

Johnson said she and Smith watched the flames and emergency lights across the West River as they drove down Route 30 after receiving a call 45 minutes after the fire was reported.

The roof of the Marina had collapsed above the kitchen. Dreadful burn marks surrounded most of the broken windows.

Glass shards and litter were scattered about as heartbroken employees and customers gathered to offer support.

The boats docked below on the river were not harmed and that portion of the marina remains open at this time.

“Devastating. I think that’s the word-of-the-day,” said Brain “Radar” Patenaude, who has tended bar at the restaurant for 20 years.

Patenaude says he was the last one out at 11:30 p.m.

Despite knowing he closed the building properly, the worry he forgot something still “played on” his mind.

Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said the fire was reported at 3:06 a.m.  When fire crews arrived, Bucossi said that about half of the restaurant was engulfed in flames.

“The kitchen end of the building was fully involved when we got there and the fire spread into the dining area,” Bucossi said. “We made an initial attempt to fight the fire from the inside, but we didn’t get far. It was just too risky.”

Firefighters were kept outside of the building to control the blaze, and Bucossi said the fire was brought under control at 5:35 a.m. Crews from Putney and Keene and Hinsdale, N.H. assisted on the scene, along with personnel from Rescue Inc, Brattleboro Police and the Utilities Division of the Department of Public Works.

A preliminary report from Vermont State Police fire investigators concluded that the fire was not suspicious.

“They said it started in the kitchen, but with the electrical wires and gas lines in there, they weren’t exactly sure how it started,” said Bucossi. “They just know that it wasn’t suspicious.”

Bucossi said that Smith, the owner of the restaurant, told him he wants to rebuild as soon as possible. Staff from the town offices have already been in contact to help, Bucossi added.

“It’s tough to lose a business right before a big holiday weekend,” Bucossi said.

According to Manager Kate Theriault, the fire has left 40 people unemployed right before a major weekend. Patenaude said, the rainy summer two seasons ago had a negative impact on the business and finally this summer the finances were stronger.

The Marina completed a round of renovations two years ago to the 1950s-era structure. The restaurant was painted, repairs made in the kitchen, and new carpet added.

Theriault said community members were stopping by in a steady stream to show their support.

“It’s meaningful we’ve been getting this outpouring of sympathy and support,” said Johnson.

Patenaude said the customers’ energy has been the engine keeping the restaurant running over the years.

Theriault says for this 4th of July, instead of cooking for Brattleboro at the restaurant, the employees of the Marina are “going to march in the parade” to let people know they’re coming back, and then enjoy the holiday with their families.

“We want to rebuild as soon as possible and hopefully the Marina will be back on its feet soon,” she says.

Additional reporting provided by Paxton Reed and Randolph T. Holhut.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #57 (Wednesday, July 7, 2010).

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