NEW LONDON — A two-alarm fire at the Lighthouse Inn this afternoon left one firefighter hospitalized and caused smoke, fire and water damage to building interior.
The 1902 historical mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
“It was a real historic preservation project that has taken this owner several years to get to the point where we are today, on the cusp of opening up the first floor restaurant,” said Felix Reyes, director of economic development and planning for the city.
Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said the cause of the fire is unknown and will be determined by the fire marshal.
“There was heavy smoke on the roof. The fire started traveling along the walls up to the attick — firefighters were chasing it through the walls,” Curcio said. “The walls are made of plaster lathe and chicken wire and the firefighters had to cut through those in smoky conditions.”
He said the firefighter who was taken to the hospital is believed to have heat exhaustion.
“Our firefighters were very aggressive. The 16 who were on duty were immediately dispatched,” he said. “We needed a lot of manpower. Everyone is pretty tired now.”
Curcio said that firefighters from area departments helped extinguish the blaze, including Waterford, Poquonnock Bridge, the Sub Bas, Electric Boat, Mohegan Firefighter Association, among others.
The fire department tours all new construction in the city to check for safety and to preplan procedures in case of fire, Curcio said. The department had visited the inn at various stages of renovation and was familiar with the layout.
According to reporting from The Day, building owner Alwyn Christy, of Glastonbury, obtained a certificate of occupancy for the first floor of the building in March and intended to open the restaurant and 1902 Tavern.
“We did a walkthrough as recently as last week — we saw how nice the building was,” Curcio said.
Reyes said the restaurant had already had a few informal, soft openings and was booking reservations for this Sunday.
“I had Mother’s Day brunch scheduled here for Sunday for all the women in my family,” he said.
Importantly, the firefighters saved the structure of the building, Reyes said.
“They’ve given this building owner hope that this is just going to be a setback. From the city side and economic development side, we’re going to be in lock step, making sure the owner gets [all] of the available resources to recover from this.”