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Residents Flee Early-Morning Blaze

Fire departments from Westport, Stamford, Wilton and Fairfield provided backup Friday while Norwalk firefighters battled an early morning apartment fire that sent two residents and two firefighters to the hospital. The Fairfield Fire Department provided backup support for the Westport Fire Department.

The fire forced eight people to evacuate the three-story building at 45 Wall St. in Norwalk, including three who jumped from a second-story ledge onto railroad tracks, police said. The two firefighters were hospitalized with heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

For police Officer Christopher Sgritta, it was his worst nightmare come true. The rookie patrolman was driving by 45 Wall St. when he saw flames and smoke coming from the building and two children looking out a second floor window. Heavy smoke blocked him from entering the front door.

"I yelled for the children to wake their parents and make their way down the stairs," he said. They were able to get out the front door "just a minute later," said Sgritta, who has been a member of the Norwalk Police Department for less than a year.

Sgritta said he heard cries for help from the back of the building, where he found two people who apparently had jumped from a second-floor ledge onto the Metro-North tracks. The two were taken to Norwalk Hospital with broken bones.

In all, 10 people were forced out of the building by the blaze, and service was disrupted on Metro-North's Danbury branch line.

Norwalk Fire Department spokeswoman Michele DeLuca said Norwalk firefighters are still on the scene at 10:20 a.m. "The bulk of the fire is out, but there are still some hot spots they [firefighters] are finding," she said.

As for the cause of the fire, Chris Hansen, lead investigator, said, "There are so many different avenues. It's like finding a needle in a haystack. But we're going to pick through every piece and leave no fact unturned."

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