LEOMINSTER (CBS) — Fire tore apart the old Columbia Hotel in downtown Leominster, and two firefighters were injured when a brick wall collapsed and pieces struck fire ladders.

The fire broke out around 10 p.m. Saturday.

The building houses 20 apartment units on its upper two floors and businesses on the first floor. Firefighters from more than a dozen communities were called in to help battle the massive flames.

Fire Chief Robert Sidleau said the firefighters who were injured were in a bucket on a ladder truck when a wall collapsed on them. He says medics who took them to a hospital said they thought the firefighters would be OK.

Sidleau said all residents made it out of the building safely. The cause is still under investigation, but officials say the fire originated in the attic.

“One whole floor is gone, so there’s nothing there,” Mayor Dean Mazzarella told WBZ Sunday. “These people lost everything.”

An account to benefit the victims is open at Fidelity Bank.  The Red Cross says it assisted 14 adults with food, clothing and shelter. The organization set up a service center Sunday to further assist residents who may need it.

The city’s Historical Preservation Commission Chairman, Donald Piermarini, said the Columbia Hotel building was built in 1892 by two prominent men in the city at the time. John H. Lockey and Judge Hamilton Mayo, along with an architect from Dunn & Ingraham, positioned the hotel next to the railroad depot to house travelers.

“It was one of the most important buildings in town at time,” said Piermarini. The trains came from New York City and New Haven in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  As many as 36,000 people would travel through Leominster annually.

In the 1930’s the Columbia Hotel shut down but the building remained. In 1982 it was added to the National Historic Registry as part of the Monument Square Historic District.

The building is currently owned by Andy Rome, who paid for hotel rooms for the displaced residents Saturday night.

“The owners spent incredible amounts of resources to restore this building,” said Mayor Mazzarella. “There’s a beautiful ballroom in the back of the building and they restored it to its origins.”

The Mayor says the city will move quickly to find new locations for the businesses.


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