Gail Leto is grateful for not being able to sleep Sunday night.
She tossed and turned despite being "dead tired." That enabled here to call 9-1-1 about the fire at the 131 E. Main St. home of Doug Berry. The owner of Berry's Restaurant was not home at the time of the fire, called in about midnight.
"It was a blaze. I could feel the heat from the fire inside up there," Leto recalled, referring to her upstairs bedroom. "After the oxygen got it, it took off."
By the time Norwalk firefighters arrived, there was fire blowing out of the left side of Berry's home, on the side closest to Leto's residence, Chief Doug Coletta said.
"It's a beautiful old home," Coletta said. "Unfortunately, the place was pretty much gutted."
Berry's house, built in 1878, is classified as a historical home. He has lived there between 15 and 20 years.
Rich Mannino, Berry's neighbor on the east side at 135 E. Main St., heard sirens about 11:45 p.m. and a loud noise he associated with firefighters breaking down the front door.
"The fire was flowing out of the back," he said, as well as the front porch.
Mannino has lived beside Berry, whom he described as a "good neighbor," for the last 13 years. He said Berry was meticulous at working on his house and keeping "everything perfect" in his yard.
"This was his pride and joy," Mannino added.
Coletta said the fire started on the west side living room, but the cause is unknown and under investigation. He called in the state fire marshal's office because the home is considered a "large dollar loss."
A damage estimate was not available at press time.
Firefighters spent the first few minutes after their arrival determining nobody was inside.
"We got confirmation there was nobody home. The guys got right to work on the fire," said Coletta.
Norwalk did not request assistance from other area departments.
Leto was evacuated her home for about 1 1/2 hours.
"I was real impressed (with) how quick they got the fire out. It was impressive. They did a good job," she said. "After the window (on the west side) broke out, it just took off."
Coletta estimated that firefighters had the blaze under control in about an hour.
Leto said she heard laughter outside Berry's home before the fire started.
Norwalk Police Chief Kevin Cashen said he hadn't spoken to any officers who responded to the scene this morning, but confirmed that firefighters requested a detective.
Detective Dave McDonough was at the scene with a crime kit this morning. A fire marshal investigator was already there.
A couple hours after firefighters had the initial fire under control, they returned to extinguish a "rekindle" that went above the kitchen, extending into the attic, Coletta said. He explained that fires can spread quickly in older homes into voids between joists.