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Oldest building in East Rochester burns

East Rochester, N.Y. -- A piece of history fell late Monday afternoon, as East Rochester's oldest building was destroyed in a fire.

Built in the late 1800s, Despatch Junction was the village's first train depot.

"It's been here since East Rochester has been here," said Dan Navarre, who lives on Maple Street, just behind the train tracks. "It's part of East Rochester." 

At 100 Station St., it was a landmark in the community that was turned into a collectible toy train store.

On Memorial Day, a fire tore through the building and a thick, white smoke filled the neighborhood off West Washington Street.

At 5:45, neighbors had just started to fire up their grills when they smelled and saw the smoke.

Navarre said it looked like the fire started in a tree just outside the store before a train passed by and blew the flames into the building.

"When the train disappeared, it just puffed up," Navarre said. "I mean it drove everybody back. The heat was so intense."

About 80 firefighters from six departments were called in, but the flames spread quickly.

"It was burned within a half-hour," Navarre said. "I mean the structure was gone. That's how fast it was."

Kept away by the tall flames and heavy smoke, firefighters were not able to determine where or how the fire started.

With the structure seriously damaged by the flames, most of the building had to be taken down so firefighters could safely reach the bulk of the fire and investigators could move in.

"It could be several hours to days before they come up with a cause," said East Rochester Fire Chief Mike Romach. "This building has been around and been a landmark in the village for many, many years, and it's going be a loss to the village."

It is a total loss for the owner of the building, who said he is devastated.

Closed for the holiday, the store was empty and no one was hurt but his business and everything inside was destroyed.

"I'm sure it's worth millions because he had all the collectibles, he had all the old trains," said neighbor Patricia Rist.

The owner purchased the building about 45 years ago after it was damaged by a fire.

The owner said the store had recently been inspected and fireproofed, and everything was up to code. He sai dhe doesn't know what could have caused the fire.

The Monroe County Fire Bureau is handling the investigation.

The burglar alarm inside the store went off at the same time the smoke alarm did, but Romach said that's not unusual.

"I don't know what the fire bureau has determined at this point," he said. "I haven't been told there is anything suspicious."

 
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