According to Whitingham Fire Chief Stanley Janovsky, Viera and Ken Miller and another family member were roused from their sleep by a smoke alarm. Janovsky says the smoke alarm may have saved their lives. “It doesn’t sound like they had much time,” he says. “By the time they got out of the house the fire was already through the roof.”
Located in a remote area with no phone and no nearby neighbor, the Millers were stuck, watching their home burning to the ground along with both of their vehicles. Eventually, employees at Bemis Line Construction, located down the hill and on the other side of Route 112, noticed a column of smoke rising on the hillside. “At first they thought someone was burning tires,” Janovsky says. But when they checked the permits issued by Alan Twitchell, a Bemis employee and Whitingham Fire Warden, they found no permit for Holbrook Road and sent two employees up the hill to take a look. “It was already going pretty good when they got there,” Janovsky says. “They had to come back down the hill to call the fire in.”
Keene dispatchers toned the Whitingham Fire Department out at about 7:30, and Janovsky says they were there in three to four minutes. He knew the fire would be a tough one thanks to the home’s remote location, away from water supplies. “I upgraded it to a second-alarm fire even before we reached the house,” he says. “I knew we’d need help with water and manpower. When I got there, I knew we would need even more, and upgraded it to a third alarm.”
Janovsky says the department laid 4,000 feet of four-inch hose from a water hole in the North River behind the village electric building to the house on Holbrook Road. “The water was hard to get to, and it didn’t take long to empty the tankers we had,” Janovsky says. “Water was vaporizing even before it got on the fire, it was that hot.”
Janovsky says the fact that the house was built with newer materials, which included a lot of plastics, contributed to the intensity. “There were also a couple of vehicles, one in the garage under the house and one outside, so the fire had a lot of fuel.” The cause of the fire is still unknown, but isn’t considered suspicious.
The blaze was under control by 11 am, and the last firefighters left the scene by about 2 pm. No injuries were reported. The house was a total loss. Firefighters from Wilmington, Halifax, Dover, Marlboro, Heath, MA and Colrain, MA were called out to help battle the blaze.