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Westport day care still cleaning up after fire at church

A favorable wind and stout fire doors saved a longtime day care that adjoins the Westport church consumed by last week’s massive inferno.

But the Willow Woods Child Development Center couldn’t escape significant smoke and soot damage that had workers scrambling to clean up Tuesday in the hopes of reopening later this week.

Director JoAnne Loftus said that much of the center’s contents, including books, toys and kitchen equipment, will have to be thrown out. Although she doesn’t know the extent of damage, Loftus estimated a loss of $100,000, and she didn’t know how much of that would be covered by insurance.

“We may have to throw away everything that was out in the open,” she said. “Soot was on everything.”

Willow Woods, currently attended by about 75 children ranging from infants to 6-year-olds, has operated for 28 years in the same building owned by Westport Presbyterian Church. A narrow corridor separates it from the church, which was damaged massively by the two-alarm fire that started around an air-conditioning unit that was being worked on.

“I’m amazed,” Loftus said Tuesday as she looked at the fire debris piled inside the gutted church building just a few feet from the school.

About a dozen workers were at the school Tuesday, scrubbing down furniture, walls and floors. Jugs of water had to be hand-carried into the building because water service has not been restored.

As bad as it was, Loftus is grateful that no one was hurt and that the damage wasn’t worse.

With the exception of the soot and smoke damage and one water-soaked hallway rug, there was no physical damage to the structure.

And news of the school’s plight has brought in many offers of support from other churches and schools.

The nonprofit school is accepting donations

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Another school affected by the fire was scheduled to open for the first time this week. But the blaze destroyed space inside the church that the City of Fountains School planned to use.

“Thursday was going to be our first day,” said parent Katie Roos.

Parents, many of whom currently home-school their children, had been working for months cleaning, painting and planning for the opening.

The fire destroyed at least $6,000 in supplies and furniture, she said. None of it was insured.

A meeting actually had been scheduled there for Thursday, the night of the fire.

“Everybody was in shock,” Roos said. “We’re just grateful that nobody was in there.”

The school was a collaborative effort of about a dozen families and was planning to open with 25 students ranging from toddlers to eighth-graders, she said.

Efforts are being made to find another space for the school, she said.

The school also is accepting donations. According to its Facebook page, donations can be made to City of Fountains School at Commerce Bank. For more information, contact the school at cityoffountains school@gmail.com.

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