Fire at Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven ruled accidental; facility could be closed up to 1 year

Firefighters and emergency personnel in front of the entrance of the Jewish Community Center where there was a fire Dec. 5, 2016.

Firefighters and emergency personnel in front of the entrance of the Jewish Community Center where there was a fire Dec. 5, 2016.

WOODBRIDGE >> A four-alarm fire that caused extensive damage to the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven and injured two firefighters has been ruled accidental in an initial investigation, although an investigation continues into what caused the fire, according to an update released via Facebook by the Woodbrige Fire Department.

The JCC remains closed and may remain that way for six to 12 months, JCC Chief Executive Officer Judy Diamondstein said Wednesday.

Many of the JCC’s daily activity offerings, such as pre-kindergarten and sports are continuing in other locations.

The Fire Department’s release says “With the assistance of the Department of Public Protection Fire and Explosive Investigation Unit and one of their State Police Detectives with an Accelerant Detection K-9, we have ruled out an intentional fire.”

The short release goes on to say, “While the investigation is ongoing, we believe the fire started in the sauna area located in the men’s locker room. If anyone has any information, please contact Woodbridge Fire Marshal Joseph Cappucci at 203-389-3445 or”

The fire Dec. 5 at the JCC, 360 Amity Road, started around 3:30 p.m. in the area of the locker rooms and men’s sauna.

The staff was able to evacuate approximately 300 people in the building. Two Woodbridge firefighters were injured, but are expected to make a full recovery.

Diamondstein said there was extensive water and smoke damage and some of the basic work to restoring the facility can’t begin until March. She said the JCC has “a very special community,” that is understanding of the situation.

She said the 100,000-square-foot building has about two miles of ducts alone that need cleaning. She said the lower level of the building had about six to eight inches of water once the fire was over and the new basketball court was ruined, as well as the aerobics studio.

She said the building as it is now “isn’t safe” to be occupied, so in addition to relocating activities, they are relocating offices.

“It’s a mammoth, mammoth job here,” she said. “It’s going to take a village.”

Some 77 pre-kindergarten students and 40 in an after school program have been moved to B’Nai Jacob Synagogue. Officials say they are close to settling on a location in town for the fitness center, have moved their basketball program to Hopkins School and Beecher Road School, swim lessons to the Orange Community Center pool and racquet ball to Quinnipiac University.