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Sussex Countian
  • UPDATE: Fire causes minor damage to Westown Movies

  • A fire that broke out Wednesday at the Westown Movies theater under construction in Middletown caused only minor damage, according to a theater official.
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  • The fire that broke out Wednesday at the Westown Movies theater under construction in Middletown caused only minor damage, according to a theater official.
    "We should be able to have the whole thing repaired in a single day and it won't cause any delay in construction," said Rick Roman, the owner of the management company that will operate the $15 million independent theater.
    Ray Knight, the project superintendent for lead contractor GG+A of Middletown, said the blaze began about noon when a hot ember from a welding torch landed on a 2.5-inch layer of foam between the exterior wall and the structural steel at the front entrance of the building.
    "It sat there for a couple of seconds and ignited the foam, which will have to be replaced," he said. "I've seen barbeque fires that were bigger … It just looked worse than it was because it created a whole bunch of black smoke."
    Damage estimates also were not immediately.
    Frank Bailey, the fire chief for Volunteer Hose Company of Middletown, said the blaze took about 20 minutes to extinguish.
    Nearly 50 firefighters responded to the scene, including volunteers from VHC, Odessa Fire Company, Townsend Fire Company and Cecilton Volunteer Fire Company in Maryland. The last firefighters cleared the scene at about 1:15 p.m., he said.
    "When you hear the word 'fire,' you just hope it's minor," said Roman, who was attending a Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon with theater co-owner Art Helmick when the blaze occurred. "Fortunately, that's exactly what it was, so that's good and we're relieved."
    The grand opening for Westown Movies is still slated for mid- to late-November, he said.
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