• Pratico says he’ll be ready for spring
    By Darren Marcy
    Staff Writer | January 24,2014
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    Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo

    Not much remained of the Pratico’s Landscaping & Fence Co. offices Thursday at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Route 7 in Rutland Town. The 129-year-old barn housing the business was destroyed by fire Wednesday night.
    The well-known and well-liked owner of a Rutland Town landscaping business that went up in flames said Thursday he’ll rebuild and be open this spring.

    “With the support I’ve gotten from the Rutland community, it just make life so much easier,” said Myles “Skip” Pratico, owner of Pratico’s Landscaping & Fence Co. “It’s been overwhelming, I can’t tell you. It’s pretty awesome. Rutland is special place.”

    Firefighters determined the blaze at the corner of Route 7 and Lincoln Avenue was likely sparked by space heaters Pratico was using to keep pipes from freezing.

    Rutland Town Fire Chief Frank Cioffi said the building was recently renovated, so there were no issues with wiring and the space heaters were the only logical source of ignition.

    Pratico said he was upstairs alone in the second floor of the 129-year-old converted barn, putting away Christmas decorations, when the fire broke out.

    He was alerted by his smoke detectors and turned to see smoke coming up the stairwell and he raced over to take a look.

    “I could see the flames shooting right up the stairwell,” Pratico said. “Before I knew it, it was in the ceiling and it flashed across the whole ceiling. It spread very quickly.”

    Pratico spent 28 years with the Rutland City Fire Department before retiring five years ago, but he said being in a fire without gear was a scary experience.

    “I’ve been in a lot of fires, but it’s different when you’ve got your air pack, helmet and hose with you,” he said. “It’s like being on an island all by yourself.”

    Pratico said he immediately knew he had to find another way out and that he didn’t have much time.

    “I knew the loft door was there,” Pratico said. “We used it quite a bit, so that’s exactly where I headed.”

    He jumped from the second story to escape the building.

    “There were no second thoughts,” Pratico said. “It was do or die. If I had stayed, either I would have died of smoke inhalation, or I would have gotten burned to death. It was a very easy decision.”

    The 58-year-old and his wife, Martha, have three children, Jessica, 36, Rebecca, 34, Zachary, 29, as well as five grandchildren.

    “It was pretty scary,” he said. “Life does flash before your eyes. When you hear people say that, it does.”

    The day after the fire, Pratico was sorting through the ashes and dealing with insurance as he looked ahead.

    “This is where the aggravation starts but Jill Maynard, my insurance agent, has been great,” Pratico said. “That girl is awesome. That’s why you stay with local people you can trust. She was with me the whole time last night.”

    He said when the check comes in, he’ll rebuild on the same spot. Several outbuildings far from the main office were not affected by the fire.

    Pratico has been in business for 35 years. He moved to his current location in 2008 from Tennybrook Square.

    The 1885 barn sat on a 1.86-acre lot formerly known as the Butterfield property, which had been unoccupied for more than 40 years until Pratico bought it six years ago.

    According to a Rutland Regional Planning Commission report, the Butterfield property was used for agriculture from the mid-1800s until the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, the property was home to a store, automotive garage and gas station.

    Route 7 was widened in the 1950s, which “restricted the usefulness of the site for commercial purposes,” the RRPC wrote, and the business closed.

    After the original farmhouse burned in 1967, the property was abandoned and “significant debris,” including old car parts and oil drums, were left behind, the RRPC wrote.

    The property’s condition and its former use led to concerns about contamination and a brownfields designation. RRPC’s Rutland Region Brownfields Reuse Program received a $200,000 federal grant for local brownfields assessments, and the Butterfield site received a mostly clean bill of health. The assessment found some lead in the soil, but reported that it was localized and likely related to demolition.

    After some minor cleanup, RRPC said, Pratico his operations half a mile north on Route 7 and built his new facility in 2008.

    The barn from the original farm property survived until Wednesday night.

    “I loved the barn,” Pratico said. “I loved the spot. It was a perfect spot for a landscaping business.”

    The fire claimed business assets like computer, a phone system and books, but more importantly, he said, he lost family photos and other irreplaceable mementos.

    Pratico said he’ll be back in business by spring.

    “I’m absolutely going to rebuild,” he said. “I don’t know if I can do exactly the same thing. But I’ll have a nice place up and running and ready to go. I’ve got a small window (of time) to get rebuilt and I’ll be open. It’s going to take a lot to keep us down. I’m a Vermonter. We’ll keep going.”

    And, he said, for all the offers of help, people have already given him what he needs.

    “How can they help me? They already have,” Pratico said. “The supportive phone calls, text messages have just been spectacular. It means the world to me.”

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