North Hartland Fire Displaces Two
Above, firefighters respond to a structure fire on Route 5 in North Hartland yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Damaged furniture lies in a pile after being removed from the house by firefighters. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartland — With a firefighter by her side, Cathryn Reed exited her Coutermarsh Street home yesterday afternoon cradling the few items she could salvage — some frames, needlework she had made for her father and other small objects — after the white two-story house was destroyed by a fire.
Reed, 64, had moved out of the home just this past weekend, moving in with her mother in Woodstock so she could help care for her. It was intended to be a temporary move, Reed said, but as she surveyed the firefighters finishing their clean-up work yesterday afternoon, “it seems like I’ll be there a little longer,” she said, adding a soft laugh.
Hartland Fire Chief John Sanders said that although flames were contained to the first floor, the home — which faces Route 5 just a stone’s throw from the Volunteer Fire Department — was not salvageable. Reed agreed, saying it was probably not worth trying to restore it.
Sanders said the fire was likely caused by ashes that had been removed from a pellet wood stove. Reed’s son, Wayne Reed, who was living at the home, told firefighters that some ashes fell onto papers when he was cleaning the first-floor stove earlier in the day, Sanders said. He thought he had cleaned them up, but later smelled smoke while he was watching TV on the second floor.
The fire was reported around 2 p.m. and was under control within about 45 minutes, Sanders said. It was not considered suspicious. Firefighters from Hartford, Windsor and Woodstock also responded to the scene.
Wayne Reed declined to comment at his home yesterday. Cathryn Reed said he had a place to stay.
While Cathryn Reed said she’ll be able to save more items from her home later, she expects some of her prized possessions, like Christmas ornaments and photo albums, are gone.
“The worst part is losing the furniture that my husband built,” Reed said. Her husband died in 1987, she said, and the loss of the furniture is “the hardest part,” because “that’s not replaceable.”
But, she quickly added, “As I say, the people are safe; that’s what counts.”
And despite losing the home she has owned since the late ’80s, Reed maintained a resilient attitude: She was concerned about comforting her neighbor, she said, who was in tears by the time Reed arrived on the scene.
Traffic on Route 5 was touch-and-go — and sometimes stopped completely — as engines maneuvered around the house. Greg Stowe a nearby neighbor, stood outside watching the commotion; he watched several drivers give up and turn around in the opposite direction, he said. He saw fire coming out of a window sometime between 2 and 2:30 p.m., he said, but by 2:45 p.m., there was only a small flickering flame.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.