Fast Emergency Response Spares Century-old Norwich Church From Electrical Fire
Published: January 4th, 2023
By: Tyler Murphy

Fast emergency response spares century-old Norwich church from electrical fire Tuesday morning a humidifier in the basement of St. Paul's Catholic Church caught fire but within minutes the Norwich FD had the flames extinguished and there was no permanent damage. (Photo by Tyler Murphy)

NORWICH – Tuesday morning at just after 9:20 a.m. a humidifier in the basement of St. Paul's Catholic Church caught fire.

The plastic appliance melted down and fire spread to the immediate area and other nearby objects, generating significant amounts of smoke.

According to dispatch logs the emergency services were notified at 9:27 a.m. and the first fire engine on scene reported arrival at 9:29 a.m.

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Norwich Fire Chief Jan Papelino said, “They got in there quick and knocked it down, but when plastic burns it causes heavy black soot and smoke, that permeated the building.”

No injuries were reported.

The fire chief said there was smoke damage in the church's chapel, but a cleaning agency was already on site and working to restore the interior.

Papelino said a preliminary cause was likely electrical in nature.

The fast response made a significant difference.

“If it had been more than ten or more minutes it would have been in the structure. There would be a lot more damage,” he said.

According to Papelino there was no permanent damage. “It is going to have an extensive clean up of soot and smoke,” he said.

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The Norwich police also responded to the fire. The Oxford Fire Department was on standby to cover the Norwich area as the city's department responded to the fire.

“We certainly have appreciation for all their help and all the help from our mutual aid departments,” said Papelino.

St. Paul's Church is located at 30 Pleasant Street in the City of Norwich next to Holy Family Schools.

Holy Family School was not directly impacted by the fire.

Police and firemen checked the school and determined it was safe during the response.

The church and school are separate buildings connected by a hallway that has a commercial fire door between them. The two buildings also have completely independent utilities.

In 2022 the school marked the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of Holy Family School, which was first known as Saint Paul's School when it was founded in 1922.

A church has existed at the location for more than 100 years and has been a significant community landmark.

According to church records, in 1859 a prior-existing Saint Patrick's Church was built on Miller Hill in Norwich, but in 1888 it burned down. Within two months construction on a new one began in its place and it was renamed St. Paul’s.