Woodstove Fire Damages Home: W. Hartford Residence Deemed Uninhabitable

Captain David Rowlee of the Hartford Fire Department shines his flashlight on a still smoldering beam underneath where a woodstove had started a fire at a home on Route 14 in West Hartford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. 
Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Captain David Rowlee of the Hartford Fire Department shines his flashlight on a still smoldering beam underneath where a woodstove had started a fire at a home on Route 14 in West Hartford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

West Hartford — A stack of wood sitting too close to a woodstove was the cause of a fire that left a West Hartford home uninhabitable Tuesday afternoon.

Fortunately, the homeowner, Michael Wood, is temporarily out of the country and no one is currently living in the Route 14 farmhouse.

Tigertown Road resident Jim Burke, who is looking after the residence, said he went to the home just before 4 p.m. to see if the stove needed more wood.

Burke was shocked when he entered the living room.

“I walked in and I couldn’t see anything. It was full of smoke,” Burke said. “I assumed that maybe we had a bad downdraft or something like that, or that I had choked the stove down too much so it wasn’t burning properly.

“At first I thought maybe I could put it out myself, but I couldn’t.”

A few seconds later, Burke fell through the living room floor, but he was able to catch himself with his arms and pull himself back up.

“It was quite a hit,” Burke said, adding that he suffered minor smoke inhalation.

Hartford Fire Chief Steven Locke said crews arrived around 4 p.m. and began extinguishing the fire, which started in the living room on the first floor of the yellow two-story home.

Firefighters were seen Tuesday removing charred portions of the floor with a chainsaw and crow bar. Once the flames were knocked down, crews sprayed water onto smoldering support beams to extinguish what was left.

Locke said when the stack of wood caught fire and fell through the floor, a hot water pipe burst in the process, which helped smother the fire.

The hot water pipe feeds two neighboring residences that are currently occupied by tenants, Locke said. In the hours following the fire, he said a plumber would be called to the house to restore the water connection.

“It will certainly be a couple of weeks to get the house back together,” Locke said, though he declined to comment on the dollar amount of the damages. Locke said the homeowner’s brother, who lives locally, would be notified of the incident.

Wood left for Haiti two weeks ago and is volunteering his time to build a church, Burke said.

“It’s always when they’re not home; it’s always when someone else is (watching the home),” he said.

The house was untouched during Tropical Storm Irene.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.