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December 02. 2013 8:25PM

Apartment building destroyed in West Stewartstown was home to murder victim Celina Cass


A fire gutted 863 Washington St. in West Stewartstown Monday morning. (KAREN HARRIGAN LADD/Colebrook News & Sentinel)

WEST STEWARTSTOWN — Five adults and five children are without a home after fire destroyed their Washington Street apartment building Monday morning.

No one was injured in the blaze at 863 Washington St., which took up to 75 volunteer firefighters about three hours to get under control.

"It looks like it started in the garage area," Beecher Falls Fire Capt. Daniel Lepine said.

He said a stove may have caught fire, and there was flammable liquid in the area. Lepine said the balloon construction of the house allowed the blaze to move quickly up to the attic. An SUV parked next to the building was badly damaged.

"The building is standing, but it is completely gutted," he said.

The three-story apartment building was home to murder victim Celina Cass, 11, who disappeared on July 25, 2011, and whose body was found a week later wrapped in a blanket in the Connecticut River. Cass' family no longer lives there. No one has been arrested for the killing.

Firefighters were on the scene within minutes of Monday's 8:15 a.m. call, but by then flames had spread from an attached garage to the south end of the three-unit building.

"It just went fast," said Lepine.

Lepine said five adults were in the building when the fire started, but he believes the children were already on their on their way to school.

Lepine and other firefighters had just finished extinguishing a minor truck fire and could see the Washington Street fire from across the Connecticut River in Vermont. Firefighters from Pittsburg, Colebrook, Stratford Hollow and Beecher Falls, Vt., were called to the scene. The 45th Parallel Emergency Medical Service also was on site. State Police Trooper Jimmy Crossley and U.S.

Border Patrol agents detoured traffic.

"It's like we're the same department," Lepine said. "It all gels together."

Fire Chief Steve Young contacted the Red Cross, which is providing clothing and temporary housing for the displaced residents.

By around 1:30 p.m., Lepine said it was time for "basic mop-up duty."

Investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office will try to determine what caused it.

The three-unit apartment building is owned by Floyd Richardson of Somerville, Mass., according to the Stewartstown town clerk. The 93- year-old structure was damaged by an accidental fire in March of 2005, blamed on a burning candle.


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